Wednesday February 27, 2008
Twice in two days the Legislature gets a dose of Citizen Finch, whose hair, somehow, looks more gray today than yesterday.
Today he appeared before the Appropriations Committee as a member of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities – CCM; often called the Council of Complaining Mayors – to sing the local-budget blues.
He suggested that if the General Assembly were to give towns and cities a bigger piece of the slot-machine revenue, it would help immensely.
Back when Gov. Lowell “Big Guy” Weicker – who must be celebrating Happy Hour tonight in commemoration of the death of Stamford’s starboard icon Bill Buckley – was cutting a deal with the Indians over their gambling compacts and the state’s piece of the pie, towns and cities got 75 percent of the take.
Now it’s a paltry 17 percent. “If you fixed it at 25 percent, or even 20 percent, as the pot grows every year, we will get a percentage share, not an absolute minor increase,” Finch pitched.
Finch inherited a $16-million deficit and he says it’s tough to not spend one-time revenue sources.
“We’re currently assessing all city-owned assets to position some of those for resale on the private market,” he said. “We’re considering selling one of our parks to the federal government, we’re considering selling the airport, we’re considering all the city municipal buildings.”
“We’re in tough times,” Finch said. “All I know is I have less money and I’m looking to you for some of that. And if I don’t get it I have to raise property taxes or lay people off.”
Thirty six percent of the city pays either no property taxes or limited taxes. “We don’t have enough THERE there,” he said, adding that New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport have relatively tiny footprints, with 17 square miles, 18 square miles and 16.5 square miles, respectively.
“If you live in a state where property is king and property tax is related to how much land you have and then you give me the smallest amount of land and then take 40 percent of the land off the tax rolls, you have the equation that we have in Connecticut, which is dysfunctional municipal government in terms of finances,” Finch said.
Maybe he should ask Sal DiNardo to throw a budget fund-raiser as the more attractive alternative to that aborted plan of last week to let Sal – he of the $400,000 tax break – sponsor a party aimed at retiring Finch’s campaign debt.