What we asked
We reached 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.) When it comes to the state’s economy, a lot of work needs to be done. One major area to address is ensuring that small businesses are able to not only stay open but also hire more employees and grow. So far, there have been a few efforts improving the current condition by helping small businesses and working families here in Bristol. A major one of those efforts is the Small Business Express program. To date, more than 1,500 small businesses here in Connecticut have benefited from this – including more than two dozen right here in the Mum City. With a tough budget forecast ahead of us, I would push this further by simply working to maintain the funding so other local companies are able to benefit.
Another area to continue focusing on is investment in the manufacturing sector, which is integral to a vibrant economy. This relates directly to supporting our vocational-technical schools. Through investing in small businesses and manufacturing for students to join the 21st century workforce, we can ensure our local companies have the right resources to be successful. These are two ways to improve the economic situation. But more needs to be done for the state’s finances to be in order, especially relating to taxes.
2.) Connecticut must stop relying so heavily on the current property tax system. It is broken and needs a lot of work. So I would definitely say that the state is in need of reform regarding this specific issue. Legislators were recently able to develop a program thay directs a certain portion of sales taxes straight to our municipalities. While this is just one minor way, it still would improve our property tax system. In particular for seniors, legislation that went into effect earlier this month provides more time for them to reapply for the “Property Tax Freeze” program.
We can also expand economic development efforts as an alternative approach to assisting towns. Consequently, it would provide an additional revenue source aside from property owners who can barely handle the current tax burden. This kind of broad-based reform will help residents and bring a level of certainty to our state’s finances.
3.) On a statewide level, there are clearly more than just these issues facing the state. However, if I were to choose one it would be education funding. The main reason is because it has a serious impact on Bristol as well. With more than a handful of schools in the 77th District alone, this issue is of great importance. Right now, our town is the 12th largest school district in Connecticut. However, we are also the 18th lowest funded per student. My mother served as a teacher for over 40 years, which included more than two decades here in Bristol. So I understand the hard work that needs to be done as well as the long hours put in. We have to sufficiently fund our schools. When we invest in education, we are also investing in Bristol’s future. When elected, I will advocate for Bristol’s fair share of funding for our schools. With the recent Superior Court ruling, now is the time more than ever to make sure our schools receive the money they need.
Part of this includes investing in our vo-tech schools. If we do, the return will be ten-fold. Recently, the president of Pratt and Whitney announced they are going to add 8,000 more jobs in Connecticut and that they “can’t hire fast enough.” What they’re worried about is if they will “have enough people and are they going to have the right skill set.” These are good-paying jobs and the company will be in a tough situation if vo-tech schools do not have the necessary resources to train students who can then be hired for this type of important work. As your state representative, I will work to expand career and technical education programs, like those at the nearby Bristol TEC school, to better prepare young people for 21st century jobs.
Cara C. Pavalock
1.) What was done incorrectly by the majority party was the fact they pushed through a budget that was not sustainable and resulted in a $1 billion dollar deficit within 6 months of its passage. This budget was passed without allowing Republican lawmakers to come to the table to offer solutions.
Connecticut’s revenue problem is a result of its spending problem. We need to stop looking for things to tax and get our spending under control before we drive any more businesses and people out of the state.
To improve the state’s economic situation, we need to make long term structural reforms that protect our seniors, restore funding for local education, and support our hospitals. The “Pathway to Sustainability” plan put forward by House Republicans sets Connecticut on a five-year path toward fiscal stability by reducing state borrowing and helping Connecticut pay off its debt. It closes the budget deficit without raising taxes, without cutting aid to towns and without using rainy day funds.
To start, I would eliminate the taxpayer support of political campaigns otherwise known as the Citizens’ Election Program. This would result in a savings of $11.7 million dollars. While I do think CEP has had a positive impact on our election process, I don’t think it should have priority over social service programs for the elderly, disabled, and those with mental health needs.
Connecticut continues to borrow to pay its regular expenses. Setting the bonding cap at $1.6 billion and prioritizing transportation projects will decrease the amount we spend for debt service by $69.2 million.
2.) Connecticut needs to provide property tax reform as it overburdens our seniors, businesses, and families. Residents don’t want their money funding other cities that can’t control their spending.
I support CCM’s suggestions for increased funding for regional services grants that provide incentives for cost-effective regional collaboration. CCM’s policy report provides long terms solutions for towns by offering spending solutions, as opposed to new ideas to raise revenue. Increased support for regional collaboration would help municipalities save money on delivery services, high speed internet, and help them make better land use decisions that impact a broader area.
3.) The biggest issue facing Connecticut is making sure we provide services and support to our growing senior population. They are the fastest growing population and we have no solid long term plan for housing and services. Connecticut is at the bottom of the list of states when it comes to providing tax breaks to seniors on their retirement income and property taxes.
Connecticut needs to get its spending under control so that it can provide affordable services to seniors and be able to offer much needed tax exemptions.
The five year budget plan the Connecticut Republicans spent countless hours on last session would implement policies with long term savings including the reduction of state overtime and by enacting a workable Constitutional Spending cap. It would also establish a real Lock Box so that money is spent on our unsafe bridges and crumbling roads and not funneled into the general fund to feed our out of control spending habits.