Democratic leaders expressed growing frustration this week with Gov. Jodi Rell for failing to take the lead in resolving a budget impasse that’s beginning to cut into services that people rely on.
“It’s getting very scary,” said city Councilor Cliff Block. “Somebody’s got to take control.”
Among the programs feeling the pinch from the budget standoff in Hartford are Head Start, Dial-a-Ride, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and early childhood education as a whole.
Mayor Art Ward said, “We’re starting to see the ramifications of working without a budget.”
“People are hurting,” said Bob Badal, the city’s Democratic registrar, and they need help.
Democrats pin the blame for the crisis on Rell for her unwillingness to negotiate seriously or to agree to tax hikes on the state’s wealthiest residents.
“Her lack of leadership has been astounding,” said state Sen. Gary LeBeau, an East Hartford Democrat who’s eyeing a gubernatorial run. “It’s disgraceful.”
But Republicans, including state Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican whose 78th District includes Bristol, said Democrats haven’t bargained in good faith yet.
"Governor Rell wants to see the Democrats' proposed cuts,” said Adam Liegeot, one of the governor’s spokesmen. “If the cuts are real, then this represents progress."
“Somebody has to make some bold choices,” said Joella Bouchard Mudry, a Democratic activist.
The lack of state funds caused the Bristol Community Organization to slice its Dial-a-Ride program in half and to lay off a part-time staffer for the RSVP program.
The city also found that it was paid back only 89 percent of the money due for early Ward said the city is already in the hole as a result.
“It’s really, really, really frustrating,” Ward said.
LeBeau said that the cuts that have been made were done entirely by Rell.
“These are her cuts and this is where she wants to go,” he said.
LeBeau said that Rell won’t talk with Democrats about alternatives.
“This has been a giant charade,” LeBeau said, “and it looks terrible for the state.”
“She doesn’t talk to anybody except Lisa Moody,” LeBeau said, referring to the governor’s top aide.
LeBeau said he thought that officials in Hartford would cut a deal before the end of the month in order to avoid tapping rainy day funds that will be needed later.
But now, he said, it appears there won’t be a resolution until the heat reaches a boiling point in October when state educational aid isn’t sent to towns and cities across Connecticut.
City Comptroller Glenn Klocko said that if the city doesn’t get its first installment of Educational Cost Sharing money in October, it would quickly have cash flow problems.
He said Bristol “would try desperately not to borrow” the money if the budget impasse drags on, preferring instead to put off purchases and hope for a resolution.
“It would be delay, delay, delay,” Klocko said.
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