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When the legislative session closed on May 9 and the General Assembly, it had a bipartisan approved budget ready for Governor Dannel Malloy’s signature, quickly squashing any lingering fears of a repeat performance of last year when the legislature was still debating a budget four months after the start of the fiscal year. The budget restores aid to towns, reverses certain program cuts, and defers part of the transportation crisis.
The total budget comes to $20.86 billion and was approved by veto-proof majorities. The Senate passed the budget 36-0 and the House passed the budget 142-8. For fiscal year 2019, the governor had proposed to give Madison only $448,407, a significant drop from the $1,364,386 Madison was allotted in fiscal year 2018. Under the approved budget, Madison is set to receive a total of $1,344,765 in combined state aid for the coming fiscal year, $19,621 less than the town received this year, but significantly more than the town anticipated receiving under the governor’s proposal.
“I’m pleased to see that the legislature has passed a bipartisan budget in this time frame that restores many of the cuts that we had anticipated,” said First Selectman Tom Banisch. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll actually see those funds restored and not cut by the type of mid-year recessions we have seen recently. I understand the legislature also passed an act to prevent the governor from making those cuts, but it hasn’t been signed yet, nor has the budget.”
A key feature of this budget is nearly $70 million more in state aid for municipalities in the coming year than they received in this current year—and that money is theoretically protected. After legislators battled to finally pass a bipartisan budget in October of last year, Democrats and Republicans were angry with Malloy when he chose to find savings mandated by the legislature through nearly $91 million in cuts to cities and towns.
The General Assembly passed legislation prohibiting the governor from making cuts to state aid promised to communities after a budget is set, but the governor has yet to sign that piece of legislation into law.
Banisch said he is pleased to see a variety of funding sources linked to infrastructure improvements restored and hopes they stick.
“Governor Malloy has said he will fully review the budget in the coming days, and I’m hopeful he will sign it this time and not veto it like he did last year’s first bipartisan budget,” he said. “…All in all, if this budget is signed by the governor, it’s good news for Madison.”
The budget reverses the cuts for the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) after the legislature tried to tighten the eligibility requirements in the last budget and quickly faced a significant amount of pushback. Additionally, the budget puts $29 million into the Special Transportation Fund—a fund that provides monies for all Department of Transportation (DOT) projects and services.
The dire health of the fund had put services like Shore Line East in jeopardy starting July 1, but the cash infusion has saved the rail service for a few more years. The budget is expected to keep the fund going for about five years and is not tied to the promise of tolls.
“This budget has no new taxes, no tolls, and preserves the property tax credit that so many middle class families count on,” said State Representative Noreen Kokoruda (R-101). “We restored municipal aid, especially education funding, and prohibited any future mid-year rescissions by the governor.
“Madison was one of 33 towns that Governor Malloy had targeted for no ECS [Education Cost Sharing] funding, so obviously I worked hard to get that changed,” kokoruda continued. “Also the Medicare Savings Plan was completely restored for our seniors and our private providers who work with our most vulnerable population were given a much-needed one percent increase. We instituted a hard hiring freeze for state government and we prioritized bonding for the critical transportation projects.”
The approved budget is balanced, covers the deficit for the coming year, and puts money in the rainy day fund—actions made possible in part because the spring tax receipts vastly exceeded expectations.
Republicans wanted to see more done in terms of structural changes for the debt and for collective bargaining agreements, but Kokoruda said everyone had to compromise to ensure successful passage of a bipartisan budget.
“In the final hours of the session, I joined the majority of my colleagues and voted to support a bipartisan budget adjustment,” she said. “Like all compromises, there was a lot I liked about the budget and other structural issues that I felt we should have done more with…I was disappointed that we didn’t incorporate any of the recommendations from the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, but we do set up a group to further study their important work. There were many compromises in this budget, but I’m pleased to have been part of a bipartisan effort to move Connecticut forward.”
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