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March 23, 2018

Bronin: State offers to bail out Hartford

Photo | HBJ File Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

The state is offering to pay off Hartford’s approximately $550 million general obligation debt over the next two decades, a mayor’s office spokesman said.

Mayor Luke Bronin is asking city councilors to sign off on a proposed financial assistance on Monday, just in time for an upcoming $12 million debt payment that’s due April 1.

The council’s Committee of the Whole first saw the proposed deal at a meeting Thursday evening, according to meeting documents.

Under the deal, the state would pick up Hartford’s annual debt payments, estimated to top $56 million by 2021. Hartford would still be required to make annual payments of $5 million on its new minor league ballpark, the spokesman said.

The state will look at refinancing the city’s debt to reduce its annual contributions by pushing payments into the future, he said.

Lawmakers created a Municipal Accountability Review Board in October as part of a bipartisan $41.3 billion budget deal, setting up a process to bail out Hartford and other financially struggling municipalities.

Without state aid, Bronin had threatened to file for bankruptcy, citing the city’s debt, lack of taxable property and pension obligations.

MARB began its oversight of the city in January.

Bronin said in a statement that the deal is the “last step” to put Hartford on a “more sustainable path.” The deal, he says, follows the city’s “deep reductions in spending” over the past two years, as city leaders have negotiated significant savings with labor and partnered with Hartford’s business leaders.

Despite the agreement, Hartford’s budget will remain “very tight” for years to come, Bronin said.

“We’ve faced Hartford’s fiscal crisis honestly and directly, and I’m proud that we worked to build a new partnership that works instead of just faking it or kicking the can,” Bronin said. “Without this kind of partnership, our capital city is bound to struggle if not to fail, because it just doesn’t work to have a city with half its property tax-exempt — a city built on the tax base of a suburb.”

The Hartford, Travelers Cos. and Aetna pledged in 2017 to invest $50 million in Hartford if city leaders made long-term changes to put the city on a more stable and sustainable fiscal path.

Company officials could not be immediately reached Friday.

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