Legislators offer insight at roundtable

TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce held the final legislative roundtable of 2018 at Bristol Hospital, on Tuesday, Dec. 4.

State Representatives Whit Betts (R, Bristol, Plymouth), Cara Pavalock-D’Amato (R, Bristol), Mike Demicco (D, Farmington), Chris Ziogas (D, Bristol), and State Senator Henri Martin (R, Bristol/ Plainville), shared their thoughts on topics such as a raise of minimum wage, how bills are prioritized at the capitol, tolls and the proposed lock box, the possibility of a bipartisan budget process, the newest report from the Commission on Fiscal Stability, and the perception of governor-elect, Ned Lamont.

Cindy Bombard, president and CEO of the Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, asked about the possible hike of the minimum wage from $10.10 to $15 an hour.

Betts said he felt the chances of this change occurring are “pretty high,” but said he had some reservations. He said he wondered how it would affect small businesses, as they may not be able to “keep up resources.” He also said that “minimum wage isn’t livable,” and that it would need to be around $25 an hour to become a livable income.

Demicco said that there have been “some positives experienced with higher minimum wages,” such as “less employee turnover,” and the idea that residents with more money in their pockets could stimulate the economy. “If nothing else,” said Demicco, “it opens up discussions” on the topic.

Kurt Barwis, president and CEO of Bristol Hospital, said he had concerns regarding the budget and fiscal process, saying that the last budget “showed up too late,” with too many pages that don’t necessarily have time to be fleshed out, and asked if there will be efforts to have a bipartisan budget.

Martin said “everyone will be very open,” to a bipartisan budget, but cautioned that legislators will have to “see what’s presented.” Martin also said that he thinks “both sides are finally starting to listen,” as they’ll need to work collaboratively to “bring the deficit to a balance.”

Moderator Paul Lavoie, said that a governor is essentially the CEO of the state, and asked what governor-elect Lamont has been saying, and what perception legislators have noticed.

Demicco said that Lamont seems open to talking with everyone, and Pavalock-D’Amato agreed, saying “it’s still early, but the perception is that he’s listening.”

Betts said that Lamont has been sending the right signals, trying to hear from all points of view. But ultimately, said that we should wait until February, which is when Lamont’s budget would come out.

Anthony Mattioli, vice president and senior commercial loan officer at Thomaston Savings Bank, asked about the idea of tolls and the proposed lockbox.

Pavalock-D’Amato said the “lock box idea is good,” but said she felt there was too much wiggle room in the language.

Betts said the fundamental issue with the lock box is how the money is currently handled. He gave an example that if a hundred thousand dollars were raised to be put into the Special Transportation Fund, the money would first be deposited into the general fund and then transferred to the STF. He feels that if money is raised and designated for a specific fund, it should be put directly into that fund, rather than being bounced between funds.

Legislative roundtable events are hosted by the CCCC’s Legislative Action Committee, who will next be meeting on Thursday, Dec. 20, from 8 to 9 a.m., at the chamber office, 440 N Main St. For more information regarding the committee, contact the chamber by calling, (860) 584-4718.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.