Government Legislators Rally Support for Republican State Budget Plan [Shelton Patch]

March 31, 2011

By Fred Musante
Shelton Patch
Story as it appeared in the Shelton Patch on March 30, 2011

Turnout and friendly reaction may indicate strong public opinion about taxes and high prices

A “Town Hall” style meeting by Shelton’s state legislators turned out to be an effort by the three Republican lawmakers to rally support for their party’s budget alternative in Hartford.

But state Sen. Kevin Kelly (R-21) and state Representatives Jason Perillo (R-113) and Larry Miller (R-122) addressed their concerns to a friendly audience Tuesday evening in Shelton City Hall.

About 100 people attended, including a few municipal officials who had met with the legislators in a separate meeting prior to the one for the public. It was a pretty good turnout for Shelton, and perhaps an indication that state issues have people’s attention this year.

Audience members expressed as much or more anger and frustration as the Republican lawmakers at the state’s high taxes and high cost of living.

The three Republicans blamed Gov. Dannel Malloy and the Democrats controlling both houses for the state’s problems and exhorted the people at the meeting to raise their voices against it and get their neighbors to do the same.

“One thing about politicians is they generally like to get re-elected, so I encourage people to call or send an e-mail and tell them what you think,” Perillo urged the crowd.

“When are we going to have the next meeting?” asked one appreciative member of the public.

Not everyone appreciated the lawmakers’ intentions. One woman said she attended to talk about Shelton’s problems. “This seems to be about what Malloy isn’t doing for us,” she said.

They might have stirred the audience’s anger toward the state’s high taxes and costs, but Kelly, Miller and Perillo were less successful when they tried to present the Republicans’ “Common Sense Commitment” budget proposal, which the party first unveiled during the 2010 election.

Sensing the facts and figures weren’t gaining traction, they cut their slide show short and invited questions.

The first question was why are gasoline prices so high? Miller replied because of the state’s high gasoline taxes.

The next question: How come milk costs more than gasoline? Perillo said he didn’t know, but noted the governor proposes to extend the sales tax to food, which will make milk even more expensive.

Perillo said Gov. Malloy’s plan relies more on tax increases than spending cuts to close the state’s budget deficit. “If we’re going to be serious about making spending cuts, we need to make serious cuts,” he said.

Another theme was that Connecticut’s taxes and regulations discourage business growth. Its electricity prices are higher than any state except Hawaii.

“These are all reasons why Connecticut is so business unfriendly and why we’re not creating new jobs,” Kelly said.

“It’s all about going out and talking to people. We need your help,” Kelly told the audience. “We’ve got to change the way we’re doing government.”

“How do we do that?” a woman in the back asked. “Half of us will be dead before that happens. What we should do is fire everybody and start over again.”

Perillo replied he would be happy to resign if it were that easy.

Another member of the public asked what the state was doing to collect sales taxes on purchases people make online. Perillo said he thinks the governor’s budget proposal includes that. “But frankly, I don’t know if I’d want to pay a tax on that,” he added.

“We all have to inundate Hartford with calls to say that taxes must be lowered,” another woman in the audience said.

After the meeting, Perillo said he didn’t know at that minute when another meeting could be scheduled, but that if people wanted one he would be in favor of holding it.