Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his Republican challenger, Tom Foley, portrayed themselves Tuesday as friends to cities and towns, with Malloy reminding local leaders that he kept his promise nearly four years ago not to cut state aid in order to balance the budget.
"If I lose this election, it's because I kept my fidelity to you," Malloy told members of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, which held its annual convention in Hartford. Malloy said his administration has increased overall funding by $500 million in "four of the toughest budgets that anyone could possibly have faced."
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Malloy, a former Stamford mayor, is in a tight re-election battle with Foley, who on Tuesday promised that he, too, would not cut state aid to cities and towns. Foley said he would maintain the same amount set by Malloy, a promise that was greeted with applause. Steady levels of state aid are important to local leaders, who must rely mostly on local property taxes on cars and property to generate the rest of their revenue.
Throughout the campaign, Malloy has repeatedly stressed how he approached the state's budget deficit crisis differently. The first-term Democrat has accused other states, including New York, New Jersey and Wisconsin, of balancing their budgets by shifting the burden to municipalities, resulting in cuts in local services or higher local services.
Malloy said he's proud that he is not responsible for a single policeman, firefighter, teacher or snowplow driver in municipal government losing their job.
But Foley, a Greenwich businessman and former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, maintained that the relationship between the state and Connecticut's 169 cities and towns can be improved, saying his approach will be different than Malloy's.
"I want you to know that not only will I listen, not only will I sit down and work with you to solve your problems, but I want to help you lower the cost of government in your communities," said Foley, who accused Malloy and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly of imposing too many state mandates — often unfunded — on cities and towns.
Foley promised to stop "the further mandating of requirements" on municipalities and pledged to look at ways to reduce the costs imposed on cities and towns by the executive branch of state government.
"We're going to get people off your back," he said.
Foley also reiterated his proposal for a 30-mill property tax cap on vehicles and personal property. Millage rates are used to figure a property owner's taxes. One mill is equal to $1 for every 1,000 of assessed property. About 60 of the state's 169 municipalities have rates that are 30 mills or more. The largest rates are in the cities. Hartford, for example, taxes at 74.29 mills.
Foley promised the state would make up the revenue loss to cities and towns under his plan.