Tipping Point is Here With State’s Finances by Bob Ferguson

Bob Ferguson It’s no secret that the Connecticut’s financial situation has been in disarray for quite some time.  The current administration in Hartford has failed to propose budgets that recognize our declining revenue base while protecting public sector employees and propping up pet spending programs.  Higher taxes and increased regulations chase corporations like GE to surrounding states.  Connecticut ranks among the top in states losing population.  These concerns are regularly brushed off by the current leadership in Hartford, only to wake up the next morning to a shrinking tax base.  Just last week, Sikorsky received a $220 million tax break essentially as a ransom.  They knew that the state’s financial situation was too dire to lose another major employer and that no other companies were coming to take their place.

Even when fiscally responsible members of the legislature propose ways to improve our finances, they are generally shut out of negotiations and presented with budgets that raise taxes and drive our businesses away.  Our Democratic State Treasurer, Denise Merrill is either unwilling or unable to even produce a calculation showing the huge amount of savings that would result in moving state employees to a “defined contribution” pension plan from the current antiquated “defined benefit” plan.

How does this affect Weston and my family you ask?  It’s because rural and affluent communities like ours are already in Hartford’s crosshairs.  Last year as you know, Weston’s ECS grants were cut in half.  Don’t count on any of that next year.  Expect pressure from Hartford to redistribute our taxes to Bridgeport, resulting in less funding for our schools.  Weston has been fortunate in the past to have representation that pushed for fiscal responsibility.  We need to continue to elect representatives that recognize the issues facing our state and the desire to stop the degradation of the past.

Bob Ferguson
Member of the Weston Board of Finance

Unfunded Mandates by Britta Lerner

Britta LernerAn unfunded mandate is a statute or regulation that requires a state or local government to perform certain actions, with no money provided for fulfilling the requirements. In Weston, unfunded mandates forced on us by the majority party in Hartford are costing our schools and our town dearly.* It’s time to say “no more.”

The big driver of local budgets is education.  Westonites want the best schools for our children and will pay their fair share of taxes to support that—but not if more money goes to Hartford than our schools and town.  Indeed, Hartford’s prevailing wage mandate increases Weston town and school building costs by 20-30% by forcing us to pay more for construction projects even if we secure a lower bid with a reputable contractor.  Weston gets just one penny for every dollar of income tax our residents send to Hartford and this year the Governor and Democrats cut Weston education funding by 50%.  Despite this, the state continues to issue mandates telling us what we must do without helping us cover the costs.**  Weston knows what is best for our schools and our town—we don’t need the state using us as a community bank account under the guise of regionalized cost savings and the need for statewide uniformity.

Help Weston and other small towns survive—tell Hartford that relief from unfunded mandates must be a legislative priority.

*There are more than 1,200 unfunded or partially funded mandates (Connecticut Conference of Municipalities)

**The Education Cost Sharing Grant is underfunded by an estimated $763 million and growing each year. (Connecticut Council of Small Towns).