The task of crafting a state budget has taken center stage, both at the Capitol and in city halls across the state.
Local leaders were already struggling to anticipate what state funding they could count on for fiscal 2017-2018 - and what new expenses, including a share of teacher pensions, they would face - when Gov. Dannel Malloy came up with new numbers Tuesday. And the news was neither encouraging or informative.
The headline on Tuesday’s Bristol Press said it all: “City officials content with unknown budget.” And it didn’t get any better on Page 4: “Plainville delays adopting tax rate, waiting for state.”
All this comes down to one basic premise: You can’t spend money that isn’t there.
The dilemma has sent state leaders into a flurry of activity, trying to find new sources of dollars to pay for needed services and to help out municipalities. Legalized marijuana? Some disapprove but it has proven to be a money maker in other states. Another casino? How much will one more bring in, given the growing competition for gambling dollars? Highway tolls? No one’s favorite idea but, with a crumbling infrastructure, worth looking at. Furlough days for non-union workers only? Doesn’t seem fair. Tackling pension reform and other state employee benefits, as well as reducing the size of the workforce by outsourcing certain tasks, as the CBIA suggests? Easier said than done. Raising taxes again? Almost all state leaders say that idea is off the table.
And, meanwhile, our cities and towns are left relying on the property tax - or cutting services, including in the public schools.
If the situation is truly as dire as state leaders say, then it’s time for all parties to realize that sacrifices are necessary - and to do what’s needed, not what’s politically pleasing.