Meet the candidates: Chris Ziogas

 

The Observer asked the candidates three questions. They were given the option of answering one to three of them as long as their total word count did not exceed a number assigned by paper.

The questions were:

A: What should the General Assembly do over the next two years to help the state economy?

B: There has been a lot of finger-pointing this election at the president and our departing governor. Why are either figure relevant to the problems of Connecticut?

C: Other than the economy what are the top issues the General Assembly must address in the next two years. Why?

Chris Ziogas

Democrat

House 79th District

1) The General Assembly is the political body that governs the state and a major part of their responsibility is to set the budget. As legislators we should stop pointing fingers at either Gov. Dannel Malloy or President Trump as the reason for any failures.

I have been in the General Assembly for two years, just one term, and although it was a contentious time, we succeeded in passing a bipartisan budget for the first time ever. We have rainy day reserve fund of about $2 billion, most citizen’s needs met, a very low unemployment rate, and jobs are difficult to fill. There is good reason to be optimistic.

There are two sides to each budget, expenses and revenues. Many people will point to government employees as being the largest cost and they will be right. It is also true that there are far fewer state and local employees than before the recent recession. The budget is lean but favors K-12 education, benefits for the disabled and impoverished, and supporting municipal aid. Bristol did well in all these categories. Cutting services or aid to towns, or education funding is not the path to prosperity; we must address the revenue side as well.

Employers in Connecticut are desperate for quality employees. There are many avenues of employment so let’s just examine one. Manufacturing has gained 2.7 percent in 2017. It continues strong in 2018. I am on two committees which deal with creating opportunities for people to enter this line of employment. Higher Education is one and the other is Commerce. Both are encouraging new opportunities for training and retraining people for employment. The state is encouraging low-cost education and training through our community college systems where they can develop skill sets for work or continue to a four-year degree in our state college system. There is a growing opportunity in the Connecticut manufacturing workforce as we have an aging workforce nearing retirement.

A major source of new revenue can be had from people passing through Connecticut, an amount projected to be about $325 million per year. This is to say: Tolls. The need for infrastructure repair is without argument. If we give each Connecticut driver a dollar for dollar reduction in their Connecticut taxes, the net cost is zero, nothing, nada, to us. The income stream is from out-of-state cars and trucks, which take their own toll on the roads and bridges. As we improve our roads, we encourage new employers, more jobs, more state revenue, less burden on property taxes: thus, better prices for our homes. The legislature needs to discuss this issue in more depth and decide “yes” or “no.” I vote yes.

Another avenue for revenue that is being discussed is legalized gaming. I am not for or against it currently. I am interested in how much revenue it generates, and who shares in it. I believe gaming, whether it be football betting, slots, or off- track betting will be with us always. if we can harness it and exercise some control and fair results, it is acceptable.

Another factor that will impact our Connecticut economy is the new 2017 federal tax reform. Connecticut residents will be limited to a $10,000 cap on income and property tax deductions. This limitation will make our taxes a little more expensive still. If people are leaving Connecticut for tax reasons now, this will hasten their exit. To combat this, we must look to enhance revenues, control expenses, conscientious budgeting is more important now than ever before. I am looking forward to that conversation.

In addition to jobs, we need to capitalize on Connecticut’s unique positioning between New York and Boston. There is no doubt that our young people are looking for vibrant, exciting new locations for work. Asproperty values rise in these two cities, Connecticut looks more attractive to the young couple that is willing to commute. Connecticut is still a great place to raise a family an we need to support the quality of life issues that are demanded today, We can’t stop people from leaving, but we can do more to make Connecticut attractive as place to work, play and raise a family. Let us embrace the change.