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Thursday, October 30, 2014

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Letter: GOP legislators' budget votes posed threat to town

Published 6:31 pm, Saturday, May 31, 2014
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The recent town budget process was the most contentious we have seen in many years. Republicans championing a cut-at-all-costs strategy got their way, leaving our schools to struggle to adjust next fall when children return to increasingly underfunded buildings and programs.

Meanwhile, at the state level, debate over the biennial budget adjustment was also wrought with controversy. And just as local Republican leaders in Fairfield demanded draconian cuts to our schools, a handful of Republican state representatives worked in concert to cut crucial funding for our towns, schools and families. Eight out of 54 House Republicans, including Tony Hwang and Brenda Kupchick of Fairfield, were among those who voted for these harmful cuts.

Fortunately for our town and others across the state, Democrats such as like Rep. Kim Fawcett, D-133rd District, and moderate Republicans in the House and Senate stood firm to approve a balanced state budget that does not raise taxes and maintains education grants to the municipalities. Also preserved was funding for critical services to our most vulnerable citizens. Thank you, Kim Fawcett, for seeing the big picture.

It's important to remember that the state budget has a direct impact on the municipal budget process. For example, state funding includes $3.5 million to Fairfield's schools. An annual state bond package also ensures long-term investment in Metro-North Rail Line safety upgrades, Merritt Parkway improvements, shoreline and open-space preservation, clean-water projects and upgrades for aging sewer lines. Indiscriminate cuts to the state budget and bonding would mean less money for our schools, force local leaders to increase property taxes and limit progress we have made in recovering from the economic collapse.

Yet your Republican state representatives voted for the following:

$6 million in additional cuts to education.

Elimination of a state grant to Operation Hope.

More than $4 million in cuts to programs that support our seniors.

More than $500,000 in cuts to earned-income tax credits that benefit Fairfield residents.

More than $5 million in cuts to programs for the disabled.

Massive reductions in healthcare programs for our children, including those with special needs.

Reduced breast and cervical cancer screening for women.

There's no doubt that Connecticut's economy continues to struggle, forcing our lawmakers to make tough choices. We must be vigilant in managing Fairfield's and Connecticut's financial future. Cutting underperforming or wasteful programs, minimizing the scope of government and reducing spending will be part of the dialogue for many years to come. But leaders -- both at the local and state levels -- who propose radical, cut-everything, stop-investment strategies are playing a dangerous game that threatens our excellent public schools, property values and economic prosperity.

Heather Dean

Fairfield