On Saturday morning, more than 140 people packed the Department of Motor Vehicles office on North Mountain Road in New Britain, clutching numbers and waiting impatiently for their turn at the counter to register cars, renew driver’s licenses and a host of other bureaucratic hassles.
“It’s no fun,” said Shelby Moynihan of Southington, “but sometimes you have to come here.”
If Gov. Jodi Rell has her way, though, the 11-year-old DMV office that attracts more than 160,000 people a year will be shuttered soon in a bid to close an $8 billion budget gap that has flummoxed state decision-makers and left Connecticut’s next spending plan on the drawing table as the June 30 fiscal year deadline approaches.
Democratic legislators, including the speaker of the state House, spoke outside the DMV office Saturday to protest Rell’s plans.
Shutting down the office “might save money,” said New Britain resident Francis Gialluca, “but they’ll put people out of work and make it very inconvenient” for residents of Central Connecticut who need to go to the DMV.
“I don’t even know which is the closest one” if New Britain’s office is shuttered, said Davey Murdock of Bristol, who was among those waiting in line to get a number so he could wait again to be called to the counter.
Paul Kay of Bristol said he suspects he’ll have to go to already busy DMV offices in Waterbury or Wethersfield.
“You might as well bring a picnic lunch and plan on being here all day” if that happens, Kay said. “It’s just going to pack ‘em in.”
House Speaker Chris Donovan of Meriden said the New Britain DMV office is the fourth busiest in the state. It is one of 10 full service DMV locations. There are also four satellite offices.
“Closing it is the wrong move,” Donovan said, adding that the governor’s proposal “is ill-conceived.”
“This is so, so important,” said state Rep. Betty Boukus, a Plainville Democrat whose 22nd District reaches into both Bristol and New Britain. “We definitely need to get together and make sure this doesn’t happen.”
The proposed move is “an outrageous and un-thought out cut,” said state Rep. John Gerogosian, a New Britain Democrat who represents the 25th District.
“I’m not going to agree to irresponsible cuts that cost jobs,” Gerogosian said.
State Rep. Tim O’Brien, a New Britain Democrat who represents the 24th District, said the governor’s effort to shut down the DMV office is in keeping with her targeting of services that help poor and middle class residents rather than seeking a small tax hike on the wealthy.
Chris Cooper, a spokesman for Rell, said the governor recognizes that the cuts she’s seeking “are painful, but they’re necessary” in order to avoid tax hikes on residents and businesses that would contribute even more to the economic woes facing the state.
Cooper said that “most people would rather drive a couple extra miles” to a DMV office if that’s what it takes to preserve the property tax credit and hold off tax increases.
State Rep. Peter Tercyak, a New Britain Democrat who represents the 26th District, said he’s not sure what the logic could be for taking aim at New Britain’s DMV office when it’s always so busy.
“It’s another thing they want to take away from New Britain. The state regards New Britain as a non-city,” said Gialluca. “Why should they close it?”
Cooper said he didn’t have any information about why Rell targeted the New Britain office rather than another one elsewhere in the state. It was probably based on regional considerations, he said.
A DMV manager told a reporter that he could not question anyone inside the building because of departmental policy and asked him to go outside.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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