Josephine Schouten, who has lived at a Meriden public housing complex for more than 20 years, sported a feathered cap and a Robin Hood costume to protest the funding cuts which will increase her rent.
Schouten claimed to represent “Governor niboR dooH,” who steals from the poor and gives to the wealthy- a kind of reverse Robin Hood.
“I’m here because the governor is doing it wrong,” Schouten said. “I’ve been a life-long Republican, but not today. I’m not. I can’t.”
Rell’s budget proposal cut $3.9 million in payment-in-lieu-of-taxes for public housing. Housing advocates say if this funding is eliminated, local housing authorities will have to pay the equivalent of property taxes to their cites and towns and will need to pass this cost onto tenants through higher rents.
Andrea Okrentowich, who lives in public housing in Seymour, said her rent would likely increase if Rell’s proposal passes. The rent at Okrentowich’s development is expected to increase by $53. The projected rent increases at more than two dozen state-run housing complexes in 23 towns ranges from $6 to $174.
Jeffrey Freiser, executive director of the Connecticut Housing Coalition, said Rell cut PILOT programs in the past, but they were always restored by the legislature.
Freiser did say that the Democrat-controlled Appropriations Committee restored this year’s cut, but it’s no secret that this is a difficult budget year, which is why the residents wanted to come up and deliver the letter to Rell in person.
Rell was not in her office when advocates delivered the letter.
Okrentowich, a single-mom, attended the protest with her two daughters.
“I want people to see there are families that are being affected by these cuts,” she said.
Freiser said PILOT funds that were not cut in Rell’s budget included funds for dorm rooms at UConn, stables for horses and prisons cells.
Rell’s spokesman Chris Cooper said the governor’s budget includes a lot of difficult and painful cuts. He said it’s not something she wants to do, but the state is facing an estimated $8 billion budget deficit.
As far as increasing taxes on wealthier residents, Cooper said that would only make things worse in this economy.
“Raising taxes in a recession would hurt us, not help us,” Cooper said. “It’s a losing situation for everybody. The pain is being shared.”