City council approves Hartford bailout amid widespread criticism

Hartford's City Council has approved a contract assistance agreement with the State of Connecticut to attempt to unburden Hartford of its debt. (jglazer75/Creative Commons)

Hartford's City Council has approved a contract assistance agreement with the State of Connecticut to attempt to unburden Hartford of its debt. (jglazer75/Creative Commons)

Hartford’s City Council passed a resolution last week approving a contract assistance agreement with the State of Connecticut that seeks to unburden Hartford of its debt, according to a press release from Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin’s office.

This agreement seeks to shift the responsibility of Hartford’s annual debt service payments over to the State and also refinance the debt to ensure that annual payments do not exceed $40 million, according to the press release.

“Our primary mission over the last two years has been to put Hartford on a sustainable fiscal path, without faking it or doing things that might buy time but make the problem worse down the road,” Bronin said in the press release. “We also made clear from the beginning that even the most draconian cuts and the most dramatic labor concessions would not be enough to provide fiscal stability to a city built on the tax base of a suburb, with half its property tax-exempt, and with rising fixed costs locked in years ago.”

The bailout agreement was fostered in response to a September 2017 letter Bronin sent to Governor Dannel Malloy and the state legislative leadership. In the letter, Bronin said fellow politicians must realize the urgency of Hartford’s financial crisis and that the city council cannot “tax our way out of this crisis.”

“More than half of the property in Hartford is non-taxable. State buildings pay no taxes. Hospitals and colleges pay no taxes. The Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) facilities and the MIRA (CRRA) trash-burning power plant occupy hundreds of acres of prime real estate and pay no taxes,” Bronin said in the letter. “We are a city with the tax base of a suburb.”

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp released a joint press release in response to the contract assistance agreement in which they said the state is rewarding “perpetually distressed cities.”

“Connecticut absolutely must have a consistent, comprehensive urban policy to lift all cities constrained by current tax laws, now compounded by tens of millions of dollars in state budget cuts,” Ganim and Harp said in the press release. “It seems the state continues to shortchange New Haven and Bridgeport – its two largest cities, with comparatively stable finances, while rewarding the past practices of other cities that put them on the edge of financial collapse.”

University of Connecticut eighth-semester political science major Mike LaPorte said that he too believes that Hartford is being rewarded for poorly managing their budget, and that there needs to be a more long-term solution to the fiscal crisis.

“One of the reasons Hartford’s in the situation it’s in, which is not entirely the fault of Mayor Bronin but also of some of his predecessors, is that they have horrible budgeting practices,” LaPorte said. “If Hartford’s in that much of a hole, logic naturally dictates that there’s something wrong with their spending, and that something wrong needs to be found and dealt with before they get any emergency or bonus money from the state.”

Bronin said that he believes this agreement with the state is the only viable option for Hartford to regain fiscal stability and that it will pave a way for a better capital city.  

“When you combine this agreement with the deep cuts we made, the significant labor savings we achieved and the commitment from our corporate community, we can see a path to balanced budgets for the next five years,” Bronin said. “Last fall, we made the case to legislators from both parties that there were only two true paths to solvency: bankruptcy, or a new partnership with the State of Connecticut.  Legislators of both parties chose to build a new partnership, and we welcome that new partnership.”


Andrew Miano is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at andrew.miano@uconn.edu.