Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to discuss the status of our state and the current budget crisis with many leaders and officials in our local community. It pains me to hear the drastic impact Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed cuts would make to some of the most fundamental aspects of our towns, particularly in the schools.
Unfortunately, without a budget, the governor has the authority to continue making these unacceptable and arbitrary cuts. This is exactly why I have been demanding that the Speaker of the House call us into session for a budget vote. The Speaker has the exclusive authority to do as such, and despite my best efforts and those of many of my colleagues, he has continued to ignore our pleas throughout this summer.
Since the beginning of this session in January, I have supported three separate balanced budgets which didn’t rely on tax increases and fully funded our local education. This budget should have been brought to a vote months ago, and I continue to demand that it be done now. Every day we do not have a budget, we as legislators are failing our constituents. It is the primary reason we are sent to Hartford and we have an obligation to get this done now.
As stated earlier, the governor has proposed massive cuts to cities and towns all across the state. All of the towns I have the fortunate opportunity to represent would lose more than $17 million in total aid. In addition, Educational Cost Sharing (ECS), the main source of state funding for our schools, would be completely wiped out in Bethel and Brookfield. Resulting in nearly $10 million in cuts alone. How this governor could possibly view this as a logical way to balance our budget is incomprehensible. There are drastic efficiencies that can be found within our bureaucracy of government here in Connecticut. On the backs of our local children is not one of them!
It has been rumored that on Thursday morning the House will be called into session for a budget vote. It shouldn’t have taken nearly this long, but I view this as optimistic news. It is also rumored that the Speaker will call the House into session, then immediately recess to caucus. I plead to the Speaker once again, no matter the result of your caucus discussion, call the House back to session immediately. The people of this State deserve a formal debate and vote on a budget.
As I stated earlier, there is a budget I support. With that said, I am certainly willing to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle to reach a potential solution to this serious problem. It is important to note, though, that “working together” requires a two-way street. I was disheartened to learn that just yesterday majority party leadership had budget discussions which minority party leadership was completely shut out from. It is impossible to come to any compromise when one side’s viewpoint is completely ignored. In addition, I will never compromise on a budget that does not fully fund our local schools, or a budget that sets our economy back even further.
I am confident that a bipartisan resolution exists, and I will continue to work toward one, but certain principles, such as the ones I have mentioned, need to be met in order for that to become a reality.
It is a true honor to represent this amazing community I was raised in. I will always fight for the 107th District and will continue to do so regarding our state budget.
Stephen Harding, a Republican, is the State Representative for the 107th District.