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Rell's Budget Spares Towns And Cities
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As Gov. Jodi Rell put forth her plan to close the state’s $500 million budget hole Wednesday, some of the state’s mayors and municipalities breathed sighs of relief. WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports.

Rell told state legislators Wednesday that the state of the state is challenged, but hopeful. But after last year’s brutal legislative session, Rell sounded sour on the state of the state’s politics. “

We need to stop the game playing and name calling and constant bickering that has come to consume too many at the capitol. There is no room for such pettiness on the playground. There certainly shouldn’t be in the legislature, the governor’s office, or the courts either. None of us are blameless in this regard.”

She later implored the state’s legislative leaders to get moving.

“I’m not scolding I’m not lecturing. I am beseeching you. Act, lead on campaign finance reform, job creation, and balancing the state budget.”

Rell and her budget team offered a series of budget cuts, including cutting various state advocacy agencies. She also spoke of ways to make or save money, from beginning a statewide Keno gambling program to charging Medicaid patients for medical co-pays. One thing she didn’t cut was aid to the state’s towns and cities, including education funding. And that left Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch happy.

Sort of.

“We’re very happy that the budget leaves municipal aid pretty much alone, but that’s not going to be good enough for us. We’re really going to need the help of the state.” Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez agreed that flat-lined education funding is a mixed blessing.

“Flat is probably good news, but painful.”

Rell also plans to create a commission to reform state government. That plan would be complete by the end of 2010 in time for the 2011 budget session. But Democratic Senate President Donald Williams says that’s too long to wait.

“I think it’s a good idea, but I think we ought to actually dig in and do some of the hard work about agency consolidation and streamlining the bureaucracy in government now.”

Republican House Leader Larry Cafero agrees.

“And I pray that none of my colleagues on either side of the aisle will take the establishment of that commission as, 'Well I guess we can’t do anything until they report.' We have plenty of places to cut right now and we have to do so.”

Former Stamford Dan Malloy is interested in being the next governor. He says Rell didn't go far enough.

"What we saw here was one of the largest punts that I've ever seen, basically saying to the next administration, 'You tackle the hard questions.'"

Legislators now have two months to do their work. The session is scheduled to end in early May.

For WNPR, I’m Jeff Cohen.