What we asked
We reached out to the local candidates for the state senate and state house races via our editorial page and asked them:
1.) There has been a lot of discussion the past year about the economic situation in Connecticut. For the Democrats, since they hold the governor’s office and the General Assembly, what things have been done and are in the pipeline that have improved or will improve the situation and how would you push the efforts even further? And for the Republicans, what has been done incorrectly and if the Republicans take the majority in Hartford, what would you do to improve the state’s economic situation?
2.) The past few months has seen discussion about property tax reform in Connecticut—with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities putting its weight behind reform. First of all, do you think the state is in need of reform… secondly, why do you feel that way and if what can be done if change is needed.
3.) Aside from the above questions, what do you see as the single biggest issue facing the state in the next two years and how would you like it addressed?
1.) The past six years of government control under the leadership of Gov. Dannel Malloy and the Democrat controlled legislature have led to some very poor decision making in our state. After the two largest tax increases in state history, the people and businesses of our state are still left with a looming budget shortfall of over $1 billion in each of the two fiscal years contained in the budget. In order to address this significant problem, there is no question that spending cuts are going to be necessary. The first cut that I would propose would be pork project appropriations that are given to high-ranking members of the legislature. In addition, I would reduce the state employee government benefit package. The budget enacted this year took baby steps by increasing the amount non-union employees contribute towards their health insurance, but this is not enough. We need to require all employees to increase their share as well as contribute towards their gold-plated retirement packages. We need to reduce the regulatory and tax burdens on small businesses so that we can finally experience the economic recovery that the rest of the nation and New England has experienced. The best way to increase the state’s revenue situation is to allow businesses to grow
2.) Property tax reform is drastically needed in Connecticut – but not the type of reform that CCM is proposing. CCM is proposing reforms that call for “regionalization” and “regional taxing authority” – I am against any measure that adds an additional layer of government, bureaucracy or cost to the lives of Connecticut citizens. People in Bristol, Plainville, Plymouth, Harwinton, and Thomaston should not be underwriting the City of Hartford’s impending bankruptcy. During my time in the State Senate, I have supported common sense reforms that eliminate property tax for senior citizens and for veterans. The focus needs to be growing the Connecticut economy – by putting money back in the pockets of hardworking individuals.
3.) Apart from the looming budget deficits, record high tax increases etc. – I think the second largest problem facing our state is a crisis of confidence. People all throughout our district and Connecticut have lost faith, trust and confidence in Hartford and our elected officials. Everyday hardworking individuals see that Hartford squanders the taxpayers’ money on “special interest projects” like the New Britain Busway and the Hartford Yardgoat stadium instead of addressing the much larger problems confronting us. We have a responsibility to the citizens of our state to appropriate our resources wisely – investing in long term economic growth, job creation, and protecting our state’s most vulnerable citizens must be our top priority. Hartford needs to change its mentality – we need to send people to Hartford who are accountable, who exhibit common sense, integrity, and honesty; that is the type of senator I tried to be all throughout my first term, that is the type of senator I plan to be if I am fortunate enough to be reelected this November.
1.) To begin with, the idea that the current budget situation somehow belongs to a single party is comical. Any sitting state representative or senator who tries to claim that they somehow have no responsibility or that they “were powerless to effect change” should explain why they collected their paycheck for the last two legislative sessions. The predicament we find ourselves in today is an amalgamation of years of missteps and wishful thinking on both sides of the aisle. All brought to the forefront by the Great Recession, which exposed the fault line created by both parties.
So let’s be candid, we did not get into this situation overnight and we will not get out of it overnight. That said, the problems are not unsolvable. A good first step would be for the negative and bellicose behavior by some in legislative leadership to stop. Bellowing that the state “Is in a death spiral” or “Going to Hell in a handbasket” may make for good political theater, but it does nothing to improve the state’s chances of recovery. In fact, it only makes it worse.
Our fiscal challenges can only be solved by engaging in two concurrent courses of action. First, we must get the fiscal house in order by bringing costs in line with revenues. It is very likely that further difficult decisions will have to be made. If that comes to pass it must be done with everyone at the table. The budget cannot be a “set it and forget it” exercise that we fix with quick patches but not long-term solutions. Whatever options are considered they cannot include any further increases in taxation on a middle-class whose coffers are dry.
Second, we must continue to rebuild our economy with a focus on small business and entrepreneurship. We need to make it easy and less expensive to start a business in the state. At the same time, we must recognize that our workforce is aging as is our small business ownership population. This “Silver Tsunami” phenomena can quietly and systematically create another hole in our economic recovery if we do not attack it head on. We can do so by making better use of our state universities, community colleges and Charter Oak State College. More than 90 percent of these students stay in Connecticut after graduation and they form the perfect apprenticeship workforce to step into these aging companies and build a new generation of workers and owners.
With difficult but innovative budgetary improvements and with smart, targeted investments in our economy, we can turn our fiscal fortunes around.
2.) There is little doubt that our property tax situation in Connecticut is in need of reform. The problem however, is that without tangible action to create efficiency in our current structure of 169 independent entities any changes will be for naught. These conversations are difficult and often become parochial. It doesn’t have to be and identities do not have to be lost in the process. There are some successful examples. The Probate Court system for one seems to have responded well to the process.
Often the push back on these opportunities is that the “big cities will use up all the resources and my taxes will go to them.” In reality that’s already happening and it’s getting proportionally worse. The more the state budget has to allocate aid to cities and towns, the worse the budget issue gets and the less likely that any real property tax reform can occur. Once again, we have to be innovative in how we look at this issue. It will take creativity and a willingness to be open to change.
3.) Albert Einstein defined insanity as “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” In many ways we have reached that point in state government. Both sides of the aisle offer the same solutions over and over and then try to claim that they are somehow different. The end result tells us that they are not.
This state was once the leader innovation. From the time that U.S. Constitution was signed until well into the last century Connecticut led the country in the number of patents issue per capita. While our companies and entrepreneurs still function that way, as a government we have lost that sense of innovation. We must once again be innovative in everything we do and in every law we consider. Then, and only then will we lead by example.