By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER
Bristol Hospital and the Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce hosted a legislative breakfast and round table on Wednesday, April 18, at the hospital.
State Senator Henri Martin (R), State Representative Chris Ziogas (D), and State Representative Mike Demicco (D), answered questions posed by the assembled community members and business owners.
“When we set forth with our legislative agenda for the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, one of the things that we felt would be very important to do would be to be able to provide an opportunity for the business community to have an ongoing dialogue with our elected officials,” said Paul Lavoie, general manager at Carey Manufacturing Co Inc., who served as moderator. “We wanted to be able to continue a conversation. We wanted to be able to provide, every couple of months, an opportunity for the business community to interact and ask questions of our legislators, so we’ve invited all of our legislators, and we’re so grateful that you guys have taken time out of your busy schedule to join us.”
Martin addressed a question regarding the budget and the financial problems facing the state.
“I think we’re doing everything other than addressing the budget,” said Martin. “I mean, we’ve got a projected budget, currently, we’ve got to mitigate a $160 million deficit, and next year, next year’s budget that starts July 1, it’s another $300 million, and there’s hardly any discussion taking place.”
Martin said bills that had been introduced and rejected in the past, have been “resurrected in this session, and that’s pretty much what’s been focused on.” Martin said that as of the date of the round table, there were only three weeks left in this session.
Lavoie asked if there was a plan, to which Martin said that the Republicans had a plan. However, Demicco had a rebuttal.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Well, you’re focusing on the wrong things,’ but look, there are important issues throughout the state of Connecticut that don’t have to do with the budget,” said Demicco. “There are education issues, there are health care issues. I’m co-chair of the environmental committee, there are environmental issues that are important to people. So, we have to deal with all of these things. It’s easy to say, ‘Well, you really should do nothing else but focus on the budget,’ well that’s not what our constituents want; our constituents want us to focus on a lot of different issues and that’s what we do. We have a two year budget, we need to make adjustments to our two year budget, we will make adjustments to our two year budget. And, as we normally do, everything gets hashed out among leadership. There’s three weeks left to go; if today was the last day I’d be nervous, and you’d be nervous, but it’s not the last day.”
Ziogas shared similar sentiments, saying the budget seemed to be what everyone wants to talk about.
“There are people working on it, the fact that you’re not seeing it and not hearing it necessarily today, doesn’t mean that people aren’t paying attention,” said Ziogas. “They meet in committee constantly. Appropriations are meeting constantly, and they are addressing the issues, okay, now as to its visibility, it remains to be see how it comes out. But, there are people paying attention. All these other issues that you’re seeing, I think they’re ancillary. But, there are people working. So, just have some faith, I think you need to have a little faith.”
President of the chamber Cindy Bombard asked to hear the legislator’s comments on the fiscal stability report, prepared and presented by the Connecticut Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth.
One paragraph in the opening remarks of the report reads, “While we knew upon undertaking this work that the state faced considerable problems, we now understand that they are even deeper and more urgent than we knew. There is still a solid foundation and much that is attractive about Connecticut, but we have deeply embedded budget imbalances, unfounded liabilities that exceed $100 billion if properly computed, flat economic growth in contrast to gains in states around us, and declining population in key demographic segments. The good news is that the situation is fixable if we take bold action. We are optimistic about the future, but only if our governmental leaders and the entire General Assembly share our assessment of the situation and are willing to take immediate action,” signed by commission co-chairs, Robert Patricelli and James Smith.
“We’re being asked to endorse this [report] as a chamber of commerce, so, it’s hard for us to endorse something if our representatives are feeling about it, so we’d love to hear your perspective on that report,” said Susan Sadecki, president and CEO of the Main Street Community Foundation, and the chair of the chamber’s Board of Directors.
Demicco replied, “The one take away from that report is, you can’t just pick piecemeal from this report, you have to accept the whole thing. There are some things in there that are tough for business to swallow, there are some things in there that are tough for labor to swallow, there’s some things in there that are tough for lots of people to swallow… everybody is going to start picking it apart and then we aren’t going to get anywhere.”