(Adds details of budget proposal)
By Hilary Russ
NEW YORK, April 16 (Reuters) - Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said on Monday he was dropping his exploratory campaign for the governor’s race in order to remain focused on helping the financially stressed city he leads.
The Democrat said in a statement that after four months traveling the state in a run-up for a potential gubernatorial campaign, he kept his commitment to Hartford “at the forefront of my mind.”
“After thinking hard and wrestling with this decision, I have decided to end my exploratory committee and stay focused on my work as Mayor,” he said.
Connecticut Democrats will hold their primary elections in August ahead of November’s general election.
Bronin’s announcement came just before he submitted his proposed $567.3 million budget for fiscal 2019 on Monday.
The spending blueprint, which the city council must approve by May 31, would fund capital improvements out of the operating fund.
After subtracting those capital expenditures and debt, the city’s operating budget would total $556.8 million, which is $2.3 million, or 0.4 percent, lower than the current adopted budget.
The proposal contains no revenue from one-time measures or any asset sales, and it includes the city’s pension contributions.
As the city tries to regain fiscal stability, its budgets “will remain very tight,” Bronin said in his budget message. Tax rates will not soon be lowered and rebuilding Hartford’s rainy day fund will take years, he said.
His proposed budget comes on the heels of two recent super-upgrades of the city’s general obligation debt from Wall Street agencies S&P Global Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service.
The rating hikes came after final approval of a deal for the state of Connecticut to take over payment of Hartford’s roughly $540 million of debt.
The bailout, which came with state oversight and was approved by the legislature, helped Hartford, the state capital, avoid the need to file for bankruptcy.
But the deal has faced threats from Republican lawmakers, who said the agreement opens the door for other struggling Connecticut cities to seek similar deals.
Republican leaders in the state House and Senate said they would try to strip other municipal aid from the state to Hartford.
“I don’t want anyone to undermine our city as a way of getting at me,” Bronin said in Monday’s statement. “I cannot let Hartford’s future become the casualty of a political fight.” (Reporting by Hilary Russ Editing by Tom Brown)