The pressure is on in the Malloy administration. The policy choices and decisions made by the Governor and his staff will set the stage for not this legislative session, but for the next four years.
Over the last several weeks the Governor has been traveling across the state laying the ground work for a major shift in spending. Talk of agency consolidations, union concessions, and overall budget priorities has escalated dramatically.
Yesterdays announcement by the Governor that ECS funding will stay at the same level is a Pyrrhic victory for cities and towns. Most of Connecticut's cities and towns are being crushed by unfunded mandates, work place rules determined by a pro-labor environment that make it impossible for mayors and first selectmen to make the changes necessary to achieve greater efficiencies in the delivery of services and the ability to address the runaway costs of legacy benefits (pensions and medical insurance) of their employees.
Keeping the Education Cost Sharing formula flat while at the same time cutting other municipal funding is a tried and true trick of many past administrations. It allows both the Legislature and the Governor to say how they didn't cut funding to schools, and how they are being sensitive to the needs of children and staff.
Memo to the Governor and the Legislature: A cut is a cut. The reality is that a reduction in state aid-- any state aid, regardless of what funding stream it comes from, will have a negative impact on the children of Connecticut, and will continue the policy of pushing off costs that should be borne by the state onto local municipalities resulting in higher property taxes. It is a tried and true shell game.
Next weeks budget address will set the foundation for debate and discussion in the legislature for the rest of the session.
It will be the most important policy document of the Malloy administration to date.
The pressure is on..