The COST Board of Directors met during February 2016 to discuss COST’s 2016 legislative priorities based on an extraordinary response by members to COST’s online legislative priorities survey. Fundamental to its legislative action strategy for the 2016 session is the assumption that COST will have an informed and action-oriented grassroots membership of municipal leaders who will lobby their legislators and testify on these important municipal issues. Below is the legislative platform discussed and adopted unanimously by the membership during its annual meeting on February 16, 2016.
COST 2016 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES
The state’s fiscal deficit is projected to exceed $1 billion this year, forcing the governor and lawmakers to make difficult decisions about the state budget. At the same time, town budgets are already strained from continued increases in the cost of providing education, public safety and other critical services. In addition, state aid to municipalities has been flat funded for more than a decade, requiring towns to fund a larger portion of education and other programs from property tax revenues. While we recognize that the state is facing ongoing budget challenges, cutting municipal aid is not the answer. Cuts in municipal aid will simply force increases in property taxes and compromise the ability of towns to deliver critical services.
Given the ongoing budgetary pressures on the state and municipalities, Connecticut must act now to relieve some of the burden on our small towns and cities. Unfortunately, efforts to control municipal costs are often frustrated by state mandates that make it almost impossible to reduce budgets or negotiate savings in health care, pension and wage costs. To help our cities and towns meet the difficult challenges of today’s economy, meaningful mandate relief must be on the table.
Recognizing the daunting fiscal challenges facing the state, COST is committed to working with Governor Dannel P. Malloy and state lawmakers to focus on finding balanced solutions that will preserve the ability of towns to provide critical services without forcing property tax increases.