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?
Senate 31st district
A: The first priority of the next General Assembly must be the immediate stabilization of the state’s fiscal health. This will be done by creating a plan to identify measures that will have a financial impact in both the long and short term of the state budget.
Examples of this include finding the $1 billion in savings the Fiscal Stability Commission said are in the state budget. We can accomplish this through a thorough review of every agency and asset to justify its existence. I believe this will result in combining agencies and legislative committees that create a duplication of efforts and waste resources. We also must examine all state contracts to ensure that we are getting the best quality for the best price.
During this time, it is imperative that we renegotiate the unaffordable 2017 SEBAC (State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition) agreement. That alone will be one of the most productive measures we can take to put the state on a path to long-term fiscal stability. In addition, I believe we need to enact legislation to freeze any pay and step increases for state employees, with the exception of cost of living increases, until the state’s financial crisis is resolved. This should include amending the executive branch arbitration rules to allow arbitrators the flexibility to combine remedies from both sides into the final ruling. Also, the legislature, not the executive branch, should bear responsibility for deciding state employee benefits.
Listen, the state is in crisis mode and bold measures need to be taken. The state should continue to fulfill municipal education bonding needs, but we need a moratorium on other bonding and gubernatorial contingencies to keep state spending and debt in check.
These steps will allow the state to prioritize spending on necessities and will instill public and business trust in state government.
B: While President Trump, for the last two years, has directed policy for our nation as a whole, his impact on Connecticut is blunted by the taxes, policies, and regulations of our state.
As the leader of Connecticut for the past eight years, Governor Malloy has been able to set policy and shape the economic conditions of our state, including economic development spending and outreach. His actions directly impact the lives of Connecticut residents through the costs of goods and services subject to the sales tax, their jobs with employers deciding if the cost of doing business in Connecticut is too expensive, and older residents ability to continue living in an increasingly expensive state.
Under Governor Malloy, bonding has dramatically increased from an average of $1.4 billion per year under past administrations, to an average of $2.8 billion a year. Today, it would cost every resident of our state more than $10,000 to pay off our debts. Governor Malloy’s continued actions of bonding $10 million for a toll study and millions more for non-necessities, like a splash pad in New Haven and a grocery store in Hartford, increases the burden on those residents and businesses that remain in the state.
This amount of debt, year-after-year budget deficits, high taxes, a stagnant economy, and burdensome regulations keeps Connecticut at the bottom of rankings on the economy, indebtedness, and business-friendly climate. Businesses and people are leaving Connecticut for lower-tax states.
Additionally, Governor Malloy’s diversion of millions of dollars from the Special Transportation Fund has caused Connecticut’s infrastructure to crumble. This further inhibits our state’s ability to attract and retain business.
C: I believe that training our workers for the skills that employers need will help revitalize Connecticut. Manufacturers today require a highly skilled workforce that isn’t being developed by our high schools and colleges. We must refocus our education system to prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow. These are good-paying jobs that will help grow our state’s economy, and by having more skilled workers, we will attract and grow more businesses.
Of course, transportation is a major issue for Connecticut. Recently, it was reported that more than 300 of our state’s bridges are structurally deficient. We also have congested highways and an aging rail system.
Businesses need to be able to efficiently transport their goods, and know that their workforce can get to their jobs safely and on time. We need to fix our roads and rails without the specter of tolls adding more to the cost of living and doing business in our state.
We also need to address our underfunded Teachers’ Retirement System. Long ago, the state negotiated a pension plan for teachers, one where they do not pay into Social Security like other workers in our state. That system is severely underfunded and jeopardizes the retirement of thousands of teachers who are relying on the good faith of the State of Connecticut. We cannot let them down.