Connecticut lawmakers gathered on Friday to discuss the state helping the city of Hartford pay off its debt.
Democrats and Republicans spoke from the state capitol on Friday afternoon after Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin recently submitted a proposal to the City Council, in which the state would pay off the city's $550 million debt over the next several decades.
The amount would be less than $40 million per year, according to the mayor's office. It doesn't mean a lump sum or a 20-year guarantee.
"The goal in October was to make sure that Hartford would not go bankrupt and to make sure that no bond holders would not be repaid. The critical part for that in a statewide perspective is that if any municipality defaulted on its debt it would not only impact the credit rating of that municipality but all of the Connecticut municipalities and potentially the state," said CT House Majority Leader Democrat Matt Ritter.
State lawmakers spoke on Friday in an effort to make sure everyone was on the same page.
"So we wanted to make sure that Hartford was stabilized in the two-year biennium, we put about $45 million in to do that and each year of the biennium, but we also said that the city of Hartford must restructure its debts," Ritter said.
The council must still approve the contract for it to go forward and they are scheduled to vote on it Monday.
"The issue was this, do we let a capital city go bankrupt or do we give them last ditch effort from the state and try and help them and I'll be honest, I'll speak for myself that was a difficult decision on my part. But we all decided at the end of the day to help them,” said House Minority Leader Republican Themis Klarides.
When asked if the assistance could be a conflict of interest since Hartford's mayor is running for governor, State Senator Len Fasano said "No, you know when we talked about this issue, a year ago, he had not announced as running for Governor. And this is about Hartford, this isn't about Mayor Bronin. This is about the people in Hartford, the businesses in Hartford and a Hartford that's about to go bankrupt. How can we help them."
The mayors of New Haven and Bridgeport issued a statement on Friday scrutinizing the potential bailout.
“While we evaluate the state’s new, half-billion-dollar bailout of Hartford, and recognize it as an acknowledgment of the responsibility the state has to assist its structurally, and perpetually distressed cities, we question whether it represents an equitable practice," said New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim. "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. 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. Connecticut requires comparable support for its two most populous urban centers and an economic development strategy for the Bridgeport/New Haven region. We’ll meet next week and present a consistent municipal aid program for all cities in the state.”
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