Today the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee held a public hearing on HB 6411 An Act Establishing a Task Force to Study Ways in Which to Provide Municipal Mandate Relief.
State Representative Whit Betts (R- Bristol), an advocate for mandate relief, testified in favor of the bill saying it is a good option for the state to help local governments deal with their budgets.
“In many cases we just need to suspend these mandates for a few years to give our towns a break,” said Betts. “For example, if we suspend the mandate that requires professional development days for teachers I am told Bristol could save $800,000 a year. That’s significant savings and that is only one mandate.”
Last month Betts and State Senator Jason Welch (R- 31) wrote a letter to Governor Malloy last month, prior to the release of his budget proposal, urging him to include municipal mandate relief in his budget. Both legislators were disappointed that mandate relief was not a part of Malloy’s proposal.
“We need to do everything we can to help cities and towns maintain their budgets,” Welch said. “The list of municipal mandates is two-inches thick and weighs about two pounds. The thinner and lighter that list gets, the better off all of our towns and taxpayers will be.”
According to the Connecticut Conference on Municipalities there are over 1,200 mandates on Hometown Connecticut. For the most part, proponents of mandate relief agree, generally speaking, the mandates passed down by the state are good ideas; however, with our communities under such economic strain, something has to give.
With Connecticut’s budget deficit projected to be in the neighborhood of $3.5 billion the state doesn’t have the ability to provide the same level of aid as towns have become accustomed to. Whit Betts argues that if the Governor and legislature doesn’t provide relief now, it never will.
“Now is the time to do it,” urged Betts. “No one is going to like the alternatives to mandate relief: layoffs, tax hikes and significant program cuts are just a few examples. Let’s work with our towns, give them better options and help them ride the storm out.