January 27, 2010

Reps. field tough budget questions Article | ReminderNews

Article ReminderNews: "On the heels of the Lt. Governor’s visit to the previous Town Council meeting on Jan. 5, Sen. Tony Guglielmo and Reps. Joan Lewis and Clarie Janowski sat in front of the council last Tuesday, and gave their insights into the state’s budget and how it affects Vernon and other towns."

“Do you want the bad news, or do you want the bad, bad news,” Janowski quipped.
“All we know is that the [state] budget deficit is getting worse,” she said. “We’re not going to be in the position next year to do some of the things we wanted to do this past budget session.”
She added that federal funding is completely unknown, and therefore the state is in a similar position to the towns - waiting to see what is going to happen.
Echoing Janowski, Lewis said the state is working to fill its deficit in the hundreds of millions, and will have to make cuts and/or find other funds.
“It’s not going to be an easy year by any means.” Lewis said, adding that she and Janowski are on a task force looking at ways municipalities can save money through regionalization.
“We are looking at these subjects. We’re hoping that we can all look at ways of shrinking government,” Lewis said. “I know several towns are already doing things regionally.”
“We’ve got a deficit that grows daily,” Guglielmo said, adding that a $3-5 billion hole is projected for 2012.
“Unless the revenue comes roaring back, which no one is predicting,” he said, “it’s going to be a long haul.”
Calling that the “short-term bad news,” Guglielmo said the long-term , unfunded liabilities, like state employees’ pension funds and health insurance pension funds, which were not taken care of in the “good times,” could total nearly $50 billion.
“We did what a lot of families do,” he said. “When we had the money coming in, we didn’t pay off the liabilities we had, instead we went out and did new things.” Guglielmo said the plus-side is that Connecticut is a wealthy state. “If we have any semblance of common sense, we’ll be fine,” he said. Councilman Dan Champagne complained about unfunded mandates. “How about taking some of those back,” he said, “giving us some relief.” Janowski said she gets many calls about the mandates, and that town leaders should list them for the house committees that are looking at them.
Before voting on these things, Champagne said, we should look at what they are going to cost the town of Vernon.
Councilman Mark Etre suggested, essentially , a state spending “freeze.”
“Don’t allow anything to pass,” he said. “Only work to cut your budget. Don’t pass any new laws. Don’t tax anything new.”
Guglielmo said that is actually a rule for the upcoming session. But, Janowski said that is not quite what it seems, because some of the budget items are part of ongoing negotiations that involve aid to the towns.
Deputy Mayor Brian Mottola (filling in for Mayor Jason McCoy) said the mayor and town staff have done a great job of “cutting to the bone,” when it comes to the town budget.
“Other communities haven’t done the surgical job that we have,” he said, and asked the representatives to keep in mind that any less funding for Vernonwill either reduce services or increase taxes, neither of which is anything the town wants to do.

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