‘From the Capitol’ Voicing Your Opinions: What Families and Businesses Think of Current Legislation

April 8, 2011

Over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to hear how individuals, families and businesses feel about the legislature’s work in Hartford, by joining several of my legislative colleagues in hosting town hall meetings in our area of the state. Overall, the theme of these meetings has been to improve the quality of life here in Connecticut.

Thus far, I visited the towns of Seymour, Shelton and Stratford. At each of these meetings the biggest issue debated is Connecticut’s budget and deficit. Families and businesses highlighted their concerns over how the governor’s proposal and our state’s weakened economy will impact them. Notably, not one person in any of the audiences thought the governor or legislature is doing enough to support the interests of the taxpayers.

Individuals questioned Governor Malloy’s tax proposals fearing they will come at an even higher cost than projected. Residents are right to share their concerns over these proposed increases. The loss of the $500 property tax exemption will have an immediate effect on more than 900,000 people across the state and the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates that a single filer making $40,000 would see a 25.4 percent increase in their annual taxes. People rely on coupons, sales tax free week and a host of other tax exempt goods and services in order to make ends meet. Parents are very worried about jobs and their ability to provide for their children and impressed upon us how important it is that the legislature find meaningful cuts to state government rather than look to them for relief.

To keep and create jobs, members of the business community challenged a number of tax increases and questioned what incentives there are for continuing operations in Connecticut. One member of an audience mentioned the tax haven other states offer and then commented on the negatives of Governor Malloy’s ‘first five’ business plan. Job creators and businesses agreed that the governor, and General Assembly, should do more to keep the jobs we have before trying to lure new jobs here. Another resident, and owner of an independent trucking company, explained that Governor Malloy’s proposed increase on the gas tax will cost him jobs. Under Governor Malloy’s budget, that same owner would also be subject to a higher sales tax on the purchase of a truck or commercial vehicle. With the implementation of the luxury tax, a small business could pay hundreds of dollars more to purchase a new vehicle.

With respect to local funding, residents and municipal leaders want to see costly unfunded mandates eliminated, a more equitable education grant formula, and flat funding to cities and towns. Every municipality is anxiously awaiting state funding numbers so they can account for their own budgets. Teachers are receiving preliminary pink slips and road work has been halted because towns are not certain there will be sufficient monies come July 1st. Until the General Assembly passes a state budget of its own, cities and towns will be left to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Residents are acutely aware of our state’s high rate of unemployment and high level of taxation. They are also aware of the rate at which government has grown and want to see this changed. While every resident believes in Governor Malloy’s plan of ‘shared sacrifice,’ they don’t want to be the sacrifice. People across our neighborhoods and the state are looking to the legislature to re-shape state government and make the same difficult budget cuts folks have made at home. Going forward, I am committed to making government more accountable and reining in our state’s out-of-control spending. It is past time that the legislature listen to the needs of families and businesses when creating the policies that affect them and their hard earned tax dollars.

If you have not had the opportunity to voice your opinions about the state budget and other legislative issues, I encourage you to attend an upcoming Town Hall Meeting I am co-hosting in Monroe. The event will be on Monday, April 25th at 6:00 p.m. at the Monroe Town Hall.