By SUSAN HAIGH Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Some Connecticut municipal leaders want more time to pass their local budgets, given the uncertainty surrounding the state budget and level of aid to cities and towns.
But their request hit a political snag Wednesday, when Senate Democrats abruptly ended debate and tabled a bill giving cities and towns the options of waiting until June 30 to pass their budgets despite local ordinances and charters.
Democrats accused Republicans of waging a filibuster to kill the legislation, something the GOP denied. The two parties hold an equal number of seats in the chamber, and this was latest dust-up between the two caucuses, which have been attempting to share power.
“We obviously see that there was a filibuster going on,” said Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven. “It seems that the Republicans are not interested in doing anything, even stuff that should be uncontroversial.”
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano denied the charge, noting how one of his GOP members was missing Wednesday.
“This was not a filibuster. Our guys are concerned. We have a right to raise our concerns,” Fasano said.
“They may forget, this is a new world,” Fasano said of the Democrats, who’ve held control of the Senate for many years. “They can’t bully it through any more. The bully days are over.”
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the state’s largest organization of cities and towns, supports the legislation. CCM Executive Director Joe DeLong said this year is unlike previous legislative sessions because Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has proposed major changes to the state’s main education funding grant, with many smaller communities receiving major cuts in state aid.
Malloy also has proposed shifting some costs from the state teachers’ retirement fund from the state to municipalities.
“There are some things that I think they really want to get some real concrete and accurate numbers on before they do that type of shifting and increase property taxes,” DeLong said.
Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, noted how 31 of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns receive “a lot revenue” under Malloy’s budget proposal, while the remaining communities receive “significantly less.”
Lawmakers are in the relatively early stages of crafting a new budget that may or may not include some of the governor’s initiatives.
Proponents of Wednesday’s bill still hope to find a way to give communities more time. Some cities and towns already have begun the budget-making process.
Meanwhile, the General Assembly has until June 7 to pass a new two-year, budget or go into a special session to get the job done. But
Republicans insisted changes need to be made to the legislation, which they noted could be misused by some town leaders who might want to avoid a local referendum and push through an unpopular budget plan.
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