Municipal leaders from towns of all sizes presented a unified legislative agenda at the Capitol. They want lawmakers to keep state funding flat and greater flexibility to raise their own money.
Elizabeth Paterson is mayor of Mansfield and the president of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. She summed up the group's primary message to lawmakers:
"Hometown Connecticut is not a special interest group."
Cuts to local aid, the groups says, will only shift the fiscal crisis to towns and cities, where budgets are already stretched.
The mayors of New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport say they've already cut their spending and laid off staff, and their fiscal outlook is still bleak - even without possible state cuts.
Bill Finch is the mayor of Bridgeport.
"Bridgeport is a couple blizzards away from bankruptcy, and we've got to make sure that doesn't happen."
At the same time, smaller cities and towns are facing local resistance to property tax hikes, their only other primary source of revenue besides state aid.
So, the towns and cities want lawmakers to allow them to raise more of their own money - through regional sales taxes, user fees, municipal fines, and hotel and motel taxes.
They also want to be able to unilaterally reopen labor contracts during a budget crisis.
On their end, municipal leaders say they're ready to pursue more regional services and revenue-sharing. Mary Glassman is Simsbury's First Selectman.
"We know we can't come up here and ask the state for more money, but we can't go home, and ask our taxpayers to pay more in taxes either. So we need to think creatively. We need to look differently and nothing is sacred in our communities, and nothing is sacred at the state level. We need our legislature to ask now. "
The leaders pressed the governor and legislators to settle on a budget quickly, because some towns have to pass their own budgets as early as March.