Proposed budget would help Wilton

A state budget approved by both houses of the legislature but threatened with a veto from the governor would improve Wilton’s state-aid situation compared to numbers circulating over the summer.

First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice told The Bulletin Monday night preliminary estimates received from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities indicate Wilton would receive approximately $600,000 more in municipal aid than it budgeted in fiscal year 2018.

“The approved budget, which is expected to be vetoed, includes reforms to pension and other cost containment measures,” she said in an email. “The approved budget moves us in the right direction. We all need to make sure the reform measures are included in the final adopted budget.”

According to state Rep. Gail Lavielle, the budget as it stands leaves Wilton “pretty much intact.” The town would receive the following:

  • Town Road Aid — $316,218 in 2018, $316,218 in 2019, the same as in 2017.

  • LoCip (Local Capital Improvements) — $206,974 in 2018, $131,710 in 2019, up from zero in 2017.

  • ECS (Education Cost Sharing) — $518,998 in 2018, $518,998 in 2019, compared to $462,941 in 2017.

  • Special Education — $954,011 in 2018, $954,011 in 2019, down from $1,081,622 in 2017.

  • Grants for Municipal Projects — $307,058 in 2018, $307,058 in 2019, the same as in 2017.

For 2018 and 2019, Wilton would also receive money through what is called a municipal stabilization grant that would bring its state aid up to 2017 levels. In 2018 the town would receive $173,514 and in 2019 it would receive $290,332.

Most importantly, the budget as approved does not require towns to pay a share of the teachers’ pension fund,  a source of revenue to the state favored by Gov. Dannel Malloy.

The budget — which should have been passed before the end of the legislative session in early May — amounts to $40.68 billion over two years. Malloy has said he will not approve it, but he promised to review it and has said bipartisan negotiation will be needed to craft a final document.

This budget, which was put forth by Republican legislators, who are in the minority in both houses of the General Assembly, drew support from eight Democrats — five in the House and three in the Senate — when it narrowly passed in the wee hours of Saturday morning, Sept. 16.

The vote was 21 to 15 in the Senate, and 77-73 in the House. State senators number 18 on each side and Democrats hold a slim 79-72 edge in the House.

One of the aspects Malloy objects to is it would reduce payments to state pensions, which he said will violate contracts with state employees. It also cuts payments to public colleges and universities, cuts income tax payments to the working poor, and falls short on increased payments to Hartford, which is facing bankruptcy, by $33 million.

The budget’s passage was hailed by Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) of Wilton who called it a “win” for taxpayers.  

“Republicans worked so hard, producing a nearly 1,000-page document of cuts, prioritized spending, and structural changes,” she said in a press release. “We present a balanced, responsible budget that did not include new taxes or tolls.

“The bipartisan support for this budget in the Senate is a small victory. I want to thank my Democrat colleagues who put party politics aside to vote for what they, and we believe is a responsible proposal.”

Despite that support, Boucher acknowledged at a gathering Saturday night at Wilton Library there are not enough votes to override a veto by the governor. Boucher made the comment at her gubernatorial exploratory campaign kickoff party.

Wilton’s state representative, Gail Lavielle (R-143), told The Bulletin on Saturday afternoon the budget proposal can now truly be called bipartisan.

“What I think is clear, I think we are seeing the will of what appears to be a majority, a bipartisan majority of the legislature to take the state in a new direction that involves not constantly increasing taxes and spending,” she said.

“I am so pleased we have people in both parties who are of like minds on these issues and not afraid to do something about it.”

In the absence of a budget passed by the legislature, Malloy has been running the state’s finances by executive order, something he has repeatedly said he did not want to continue doing.

Speaking to The Bulletin about the governor’s remarks Lavielle said, “He kept saying [to the legislature] if you don’t pass a budget it’s your fault. Now it’s not our fault, it’s his. It will be his decision to let the executive order kick in.”

Malloy can either sign the budget proposal into law, sign it with line-item vetoes, veto it, or let it pass without his signature.