Governor M. Jodi Rell presented her proposed budget earlier this week. She said the budget makes for a leaner more efficient government that would position the state to soar when the economy recovers.
Connecticut’s future prosperity and competitiveness hinges on developing robust downtowns and urban centers; fostering desirable communities where millennials can start their careers, Gen X-ers can start their families, and baby boomers can transition to the challenges of aging within walking distance of shopping, recreation, education opportunities and easy access to transit. That behooves the state to play a significant role in reducing cities and towns’ reliance on the property tax to pay for government services; improve regional cooperation to realize efficiencies in government service delivery and coordinate land use & economic development at a sustainable scale; and invest strategically in assets that guarantee a positive long-run return to the state’s economy, environment and society – investments in transit, transit oriented development, brownfield revitalization, affordable housing, and priority property preservation.
Does the Governor’s proposed budget advance smart growth in the next biennium? Not so much.
The Governor proposes a one-year $40 million grant program that encourages towns to provide services like trash collection, road maintenance, animal control, etc. regionally.
At the same time, the budget:
• reduces bonding to cities and towns,
• eliminates planning grants to municipalities,
• reduces previous bond authorizations for planning by half,
• eliminates state-sponsored education for land use commissioners,
• eliminates funding for regional planning organizations,
• eliminates the regional incentive grant program,
• zeros the regional performance grant,
• cuts Payments in Lieu of Taxes for colleges and hospitals and PILOT for state-owned property in all of our major cities except Hartford.
For smart growth advocates, other worrisome items in the budget include a proposal to switch all Department of Environmental Protection special funds to the General Fund – this includes the emergency spill response program and underground storage tank cleanup. The budget narrative says this would open the funds to the transparency of the appropriations process. 1000 FRIENDS vociferously supports greater transparency and accountability in government but clearly there’s more going on here than openness.
DEP loses its dedicated funds and its lines in the Governor’s budget reflect a 7.44 percent cut in the biennium with $12 million lost in 09/10 only $7.1 million of which would be recovered in 10/11.
The Governor proposes big changes to the Department of Economic and Community Development. It will absorb the Office of Workforce Competitiveness and the Commission on Culture and Tourism. DECD is currently responsible for a number of growth and development programs. They include:
• brownfield remediation and redevelopment,
• affordable housing,
• Main Street development, and
• urban redevelopment.
• The Commission on Culture and Tourism is responsible for historic preservation – a key concern when redeveloping older neighborhoods.
DECD takes on significantly more responsibility with the Governor’s proposed budget, but it loses $10.3 million in 09/10 and another $4 million in 10/11. And the CCT loses all $33 million of its funds.
Transportation fares little better. The Transportation Strategy Board is eliminated and the Special Transportation Fund receives an anemic four percent infusion.
The Governor includes $1.9 billion in federal stimulus dollars in her budget. Given this week’s tussling in the U.S. Senate, this amount seems optimistic. The current deficit projected by the Office of Fiscal Analysis is close to $3 billion deeper than the Governor’s budget reflects. Obviously, the Connecticut General Assembly will have to consider both cuts and revenue enhancements in the coming weeks.
Smart growth advocates need to help them keep the endgame in sight as they do. If they chose well, we can grow smart and sustainably. We can weather the recession and come out stronger. If not, we’ll see further urban disinvestment, lose even more land, be stuck in our cars in traffic and no one will relocate their homes or businesses here because they won’t be able to afford our housing!
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Rell's Budget: Heidi's take
I quote Heidi Green's take on the proposed budget: