Legislators meet with municipal leaders

State Senator Henri Martin (R-31) May 10 was joined by State Representatives Whit Betts (R-78), William Petit (R-22), and John Piscopo (R-76) in a meeting with central Connecticut municipal leaders. The legislators invited the municipalities for a roundtable discussion on the proposed Republican budget and its impact on communities.

Martin said legislators wanted to tell municipal leaders the thinking behind the Republican budget proposal and their priorities during the current budget negotiations, reported a Republican press release.

“Certainly the news that tax revenues are more than $400 million below what was expected makes the budget process more difficult,” Martin said via the press release. “I know one thing we will try to do is maintain municipal funding levels. We would like our budget proposal to serve as a framework for the negotiation process.”

In the press release, Betts said his caucus would like budget discussion to focus more on cuts than raising revenue. He said some of the administration’s tax proposals would be particularly harmful.

“The proposed hospital tax would be devastating to Bristol Hospital,” Betts said, according to the press release. “We cannot afford to lose it both as a major employer and a medical provider for Bristol residents. There are other ways to close the budget gap.”

Several of the municipal leaders related that manufacturers are telling them that one of the biggest impediments to growing their business is the ability to find skilled workers, said the press release.

Petit, who serves on the legislature’s Commerce Committee, said he and his colleagues are working on the issue.

“I know I’m the new kid on the block here, but I can tell you that the Commerce Committee is very aware of the problems businesses are having finding skilled workers,” Petit said, according to the GOP news release. ”We know one of the things that needs to be done is to get the needs of the industry in tune with the younger generation. We need to start reaching kids much earlier to let them know that high-tech manufacturing jobs are good-paying jobs that offer them a career.”

When asked about a timeline for when budget negotiations would be complete, the release said the legislators said there is no way to know.

In the press release Piscopo said the projected $5 billion deficit over the next two years makes budget negotiations even more challenging.

“Unfortunately, municipalities don’t have the luxury of waiting for the legislature to develop their budget,” Piscopo said, according to the press release. “This puts them in a terrible position, but we hope changes can be made that will make future budgets more predictable. Our towns really deserve to know what to expect.”

After the meeting, the release said, local leaders said they appreciated that legislators reached out to them to let them know how Republicans crafted their budget and their priorities during negotiations.

Plainville Town Manager Robert Lee said he found the meeting to be very productive.

“It certainly seems like they are taking the right approach in terms of how to handle things,” Lee said, according to the press release. “I certainly support an (Education Cost Sharing) formula that has a predictable and fair appropriation for communities.”

Local municipal and legislative leaders meet at the State Capitol to discuss the state budget situation.