Thursday, March 18, 2010

Local Aid Resolution Rejected – Anyone Surprised?

Today, Republican lawmakers offered a local aid resolution at the first full formal session held in several weeks. Not surprisingly, the resolution was not even allowed to be introduced and debated on the floor. Also not surprising is the hypocrisy shown by Democratic leadership. We’ve adopted local aid resolutions several times in the past – the last time was when now Speaker Bob DeLeo was Ways and Means Chairman. It also clearly shows the difference in priorities between House Republicans and Democrats. GOP lawmakers want to protect communities and local services while the Democrats want to slash local aid.

When drafting this resolution, it was our goal to provide a clear and concise proposal. As you may recall, the resolution proposes the following:

1. Establish a minimum level of Chapter 70 and Unrestricted Local Aid equal the amount proposed by the Governor for FY’11

a. The minimum Chapter 70 appropriation must equal $4,048,324,258 for FY11; and
b. The minimum Unrestricted Local Aid appropriation must equal $936,437,803.

2. Establish a minimum level of funding for each of the following accounts to equal the amount proposed by the Governor for FY’11

a. Reimbursement to Cities in Lieu of Taxes $27.3 million
b. Regional School Transportation $40.5 million
c. Special Education Residential Schools $135 million

This resolution provides among other things flexibility during budget debate, so that the Legislature might further increase local aid appropriations from an established floor. It also provides predictability for municipalities who are already constructing their budgets.

However, Democratic leadership apparently doesn’t think providing municipalities with this vital information is very important nor is making a commitment to our communities that the House won’t attempt to balance the state budget on the backs of cities and towns. Here’s what they offered:

"Continuing the Legislature’s commitment to supporting core services at the municipal level through state-funded local aid payments, Steven Panagiotakos, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and Charles Murphy, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, announced today an agreement on levels of support cities and towns can expect in the upcoming fiscal year. According to the agreement, municipalities will receive no more than a 4% cut in their Section 3 local aid in the upcoming fiscal year and all school districts can count on being funded at their foundation level of support."

Helpful? No. Informative? Absolutely not! Supporting our communities and local services during the terrible times? Yeah right! If anything, this press release, ummm – plan makes it even more difficult for municipalities to start the budget process. It is vague, difficult to interpret and quite frankly insulting to our local officials. The only thing it clearly shows is the Democratic leadership is looking to make cities and towns pay for their years of fiscal irresponsibility.