Bipartisan State Budget PassesOctober 27, 2017
Yesterday I voted in favor of a truly bipartisan budget agreement that has passed both the Senate and House with an overwhelming majority and now goes to the Governor's desk for his consideration.
Ending this stalemate is an important step forward for our communities and our state. I've worked hard with members on both sides of the aisle to ensure that this budget is fair to our district, protects towns from devastating cuts, maintains vital social services, and invests in the growth of our economy.
Here are some of the specific policies in the budget that I have worked on:
I'm proud that this budget provides substantial relief for homeowners with crumbling foundations. The budget proposal:
- Provides $20 million in bonding for foundation repairs in each of the next 5years
- Creates a non-profit captive insurance company, licensed and regulated by the CT Insurance Department, to distribute the grants to approved contractors on behalf of homeowners
- Establishes a special homeowner advocate at the state Department of Housing to aid and assist with the various funding options
- Gives homeowners a minimum of one year from the date they received a written denial to file suit against their insurance company
- Waives building permit fees for foundation repairs
- Requires additional disclosures regarding information about concrete foundations to potential buyers from sellers
Education Cost Sharing Reform
Up until now, budgets have distributed education aid to towns through arbitrary block grants, a process that a judge has ruled is irrational and unfair. Beginning in Fiscal Year 2019, we use a formula that takes into consideration the number of low-income students and English language learners in a district. Additional reforms are still needed, and I will continue to work my colleagues in creating a predictable formula for education aid that fairly funds our schools.
For Fiscal Year 18, East Hartford and Manchester's education cost sharing funding will remain level, and South Windsor's will decrease by 5% - a much better outcome than if we had continued to operate without passing a budget, under the executive order issued earlier this year by the Governor.
Policies on Boards of Education and Town Councils
There were several proposals this year to give municipal legislative bodies greater authority, at the expense of the autonomy of boards of education (BOEs). Having previously served as chairman of the East Hartford BOE, I understand the importance of a BOE's autonomy. As a legislator, I have successfully pushed back against this type of overreaching legislation in previous years. While I would prefer that these changes were not on the table at all, I was able to negotiate with Republican leadership to institute policies that strengthen relationships between boards of education and town councils/boards of directors while maintaining the autonomy of BOEs across the state:
- A regional board of education may establish a finance committee for the regional school district to provide information concerning local budget issues
- BOEs may create arrangements to share education services between local BOEs and may jointly employ a superintendent of schools
- BOEs will notify the town council/board of directors, prior to the start date, of the hiring of any central office administrative personnel position with a salary greater than $100,000 not originally listed in the proposed or approved education budget
- Town councils/boards of directors and BOEs must consult when possible regarding the joint purchasing of property insurance, casualty insurance and workers' compensation insurance
- After going out to bid for a good or service, BOEs will consult with the town council/board of directors and consider a cooperative agreement with the municipality if it would achieve a lower cost
I was disappointed Republicans did not agree to a policy requiring towns to post both superintendent and town manager contracts online. Only superintendent contracts must be posted online, creating a double standard.
Additionally, this budget:
- Rejects the Governor’s plan to shift teachers’ pension costs to towns
- Does not increase the income, sales, or corporate tax rate
- Invests in the school-to-manufacturing pipeline by funding technical schools and workforce training programs
- Invests in small businesses and job creation through programs such as the Small Business Express program
- Funds Care4Kids to help working families afford childcare
- Institutes a spending and bonding cap to provide greater budget predictability