September 22, 2017

Democratic Legislators Condemn Republican Budget for Shortchanging Crumbling Foundations

At the home of a South Windsor resident affected by a crumbling
concrete foundation, Democratic state Senators Tim Larson (D-East Hartford), Steve Cassano (D-Manchester), Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) and Democratic state Representative Jeff Currey (D-East Hartford) urged Governor Dannel P. Malloy to veto a proposed Republican biennial state budget which provides less than one-half of the aid for homeowners with foundation problems than the Democratic budget provides.

Democratic legislators spoke at the home of John Enderle of South Windsor. Enderle purchased his home about 25 years ago and began noticing cracks in his basement about five years ago. He says he has received a repair estimate in excess of $200,000. “The issue of crumbling foundations is going to be a financial drag on the state until this issue is resolved,” Mr. Enderle said. “People need to come together as leaders and figure out the best solution for homeowners and the state.”

“I’m angry that after all this time and effort was put into bipartisan legislation that Republicans have turned their backs on their neighbors with crumbling foundation problems. They apparently can’t put their money where their mouth is,” said Sen. Larson, who represents the affected towns of South Windsor, East Hartford, East Windsor and Ellington. “The Democratic budget alternative is not a perfect solution, but it’s a start in the right direction, in a better direction for folks with crumbling foundations. It really does create a framework for fixing this problem.”

“Homeowners with crumbling foundations have gone too long without answers, and they deserve a comprehensive solution. The Republican proposal is a weakened, watered-down version of the Democratic plan,” Rep. Currey said. “The Republican plan contains less financial aid, it reduces oversight, and it puts the Governor’s office in charge of remediation funds. Our proposal calls for the creation of an independent and highly regulated captive insurance company where homeowners have a seat on the board of directors. I believe we can do better, and I will push for a budget that includes more aid and protections for homeowners.”

Several Republicans voted this year in committee to institute an annual $12 surcharge on homeowners’ insurance policies to create a pool of funding for homeowners with crumbling foundations, and other Republican legislators co-sponsored a bill calling for a $100 annual surcharge on homeowners’ insurance policies. But in the end, Republicans didn’t include any of that assistance in their state budget proposal.

Instead, the Republican budget includes just $2.7 million per year for two years for a “Collapsing Foundations Interest Rate Reduction Account,” and another $20 million per year in state bonding for a total Republican assistance package of $45.4 million.

In contrast, the Democratic budget includes $10 million per year in state bonding for five years, plus a $12 annual surcharge on homeowners’ insurance policies per year for five years that raises another $10 million per year, for a total Democratic assistance package of $100 million—more than twice the Republican budget funding level. The Democratic budget also directs the state Department of Housing to seek $60.8 million in federal funding for a potential Democratic aid package to homeowners of $160.8 million—more than three times the Republican budget funding level.

“Talking about helping homeowners is easy in March, April and May, but it takes real effort and a real commitment to see this funding through to your actual budget proposal. Apparently there was a breakdown along the way on the Republican side,” said Sen. Osten, who is the Democratic Co-Chair of the Appropriations Committee and who represents the impacted towns of Hebron, Columbia and Franklin. “Fixing this problem is going to take state spending. The private sector, banks and insurance companies have thrown up their hands and walked away. It’s up to us, and the Democratic budget is clearly the better option for helping homeowners.”

“I think there is a desire on the part of Republicans to help affected homeowners, because this really is a problem that, while localized in some respects, has statewide consequences. But in order to help you have to provide more than just $40 million or $50 million,” said Sen. Cassano, who represents the affected communities of Manchester, Glastonbury, Bolton and Andover. “We’re looking at hundreds if not thousands of homes with repair bills of $200,000 each. We could close in on a billion dollars pretty quick.”

“The crumbling foundation disaster is not a partisan matter, but I was shocked to see there’s a significant difference between the Republican and Democratic budgets,” said Dr. Saud Anwar, who is a member of the South Windsor Town Council’s Crumbling Foundations Subcommittee. “The Republican budget strips the resources for victims by about two-thirds and fails to do anything sustainable in addressing this disaster. For the people suffering and watching their foundations weaken and crumble, lip service and token efforts are no longer enough. Between the two budgets, the Democratic budget is far better.”