Fairfield Republicans send message to Hartford
FAIRFIELD — The annual review of town projects and debt service last week took a political turn when the Republican majority on the Board of Finance passed a “sense of the body” resolution regarding the state budget.
After several hours of discussion of current and proposed capital projects, and before the board turned its attention to the town’s long-term financial strategies in light of the state’s fiscal health, finance board member James Walsh proposed the resolution — which carries no authority — “requesting” that First Selectman Mike Tetreau “advocate to the governor in writing, by telephone, and in the press, that the town supports the bipartisan budget” recently adopted by the General Assembly.
That budget, crafted by Republicans, was recently approved by state legislators after several Democrats crossed party lines to vote in favor of it. It restores, and actually increases, state revenues to the town, and does not require towns to contribute to the state-run teacher's pension fund.
“If the Board of Finance wants to make a motion, fine, but I would appreciate you not including me,” Tetreau said, though he said he agreed from a standpoint of state aid, the GOP budget is the best for the town. “I would encourage you to take action for your board, but would ask that you leave me out of it, and let me do my job.”
Tetreau said the motion, which was not on the original agenda and there was no vote to add it, implies that he has not been advocating for the town at the state level. Support for the motion broke down along party lines, with the six Republicans voting in favor, and three Democrats voting “no.”
“I have been up in Hartford this year meeting with leadership on both sides of the aisle,” Tetreau said. “I want to make sure this board realizes I’ve been on this budget every day. I’ve taken a very active role to represent this town. I’m working my buns off here to make sure Fairfield is taken care of, and I agree, this budget does more for Fairfield.”
Tetreau said, however, that he has questions about the long-term implications of the GOP budget, and what that might mean for the town.
As Tetreau’s voice got a bit louder, Walsh told him he was acting “crazy” and to calm down, and Chairman Tom Flynn said while he could understand why Tetreau might feel the motion was telling him what to do, that wasn’t the intent. “What’s intended is our board, a majority of our board, requests that you advocate on behalf of our board.”
” I want it to be from the chief executive officer,” Walsh said. “I want, when he’s asked by the press, ‘do you support it,’ I want him to say yes. “If he chooses not to, he can have his own reasons for doing it.”
Tetreau said he could and would communicate the Board of Finance’s support for the GOP budget to the governor. “I think the Board of Finance should confine itself to the Board of Finance.”
Walsh said it is the board’s fiduciary responsibility to support what is best for the town of Fairfield, and that some Democratic budget proposals include teacher pension payments from towns and cities.
“It’s the only budget out there that takes away the expense for the teacher pension contribution,” Walsh said. He said billing the towns for the pension fund was a “crazy” and “insane” idea when proposed by the governor, “but now the Democrats in the legislature have taken it up, and agreed to it, it scares me a lot. A lot. It shows you they’re in the same camp.”
Tetreau said he doesn’t direct the finance board what to do. “I’m doing my job,” he said.
Walsh told Tetreau that he was “starting to yell and get a little crazy,” and “I can make any motion I want, calm down.”
Board member John Mitola, like Tetreau a Democrat, wasn’t buying Flynn and Walsh’s reasoning.
“I think this motion is totally out of line,” Mitola said, adding they all agree, as a board, that they want as much state revenue as possible. “This is just a political stunt we’ve wasted 20 minutes on. There’s an election in 10 weeks, that’s what this is all about.”
Another Democrat, Sheila Marmion, said, she couldn’t support Walsh’s motion, because “I do not personally feel confident that I fully understand the details in these various budgets.” She also noted that while the budget passed with some bipartisan support, it was a compromise budget created by both parties working together. “I think, at its face, it’s easy to say you support one over the other, but I personally don’t feel confident without knowing more of the details.