From the Capitol: Legislative Priorities for the New Year

December 30, 2014

As the holiday decorations come down at the Capitol, a new type of excitement starts filling the hallways. The hustle and bustle of the start of a new session is just days away. While there are many important issues I hope to address this year in the State Senate, there are also a few key legislative issues that need to take priority.

State lawmakers need to work together this year to reduce the size and scope of government with an eye focused on putting Connecticut back to work. Big government can get in the way of job growth. We need to remove burdensome regulations and taxes, thereby opening the doors to new jobs, encouraging companies to expand, and creating an environment where employees can grow and thrive. More jobs, specifically more skilled and well-paying jobs, are key to improving the quality of life for people across the state. Connecticut needs to get our finances in order so that we can cut back on the taxes that deter jobs and burden our families.

A recent White House report declared that Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure is among the nation’s worst – 41% of Connecticut’s roads are in poor shape and 35% of our bridges are structurally deficient. On top of these concerning problems, Connecticut has some seriously misplaced priorities when it comes to transportation spending. For example, nearly $600 million has been spent on CT Fastrak to create a busway between Hartford and New Britain – a route that is already served by buses! And, some funding that was intended to support transportation projects was diverted to other projects by the governor throughout the past four years. At the same time infrastructure in other areas is crumbling, Metro-North remains unreliable, and highway congestion is unbearable.

This session, legislators must work to protect the state’s Special Transportation Fund and ensure that transportation dollars fund important and necessary infrastructure improvement projects. We also need to increase capacity on Metro-North’s Waterbury Line, a lifeline for the Valley connecting our communities to New York and some of Connecticut’s biggest cities. And finally, the legislature must focus on making Metro-North safer and more efficient. Not only will this help commuters, but by strengthening public transportation options we can reduce severe congestion on our roadways.

Aging in Place
Connecticut must continue working to advance “Aging in Place” policies that give aging adults the tools they need to stay in their own homes instead of being forced into institutionalized care. Aging in place typically means a better quality of life within one’s own community and a reduced financial burden on both the individual and the state providing care. To put this into perspective consider this: a recent Genworth report found that nursing homes (private pay) cost about $155,000 a year while a home health aide would cost around $49,000 a year. Staying at home saves money for all those responsible for paying for care.

The legislature can help make aging in place a priority by finding ways to provide citizens with improved quality and access to homecare. We can also work to reduce the costs of this care by supporting programs that encourage people to invest in long term care insurance. Last year, for example, I proposed a tax deduction for people who purchase long term care insurance – an investment that will certainly help reduce costs later in life. As Connecticut’s senior population continues to grow, this will become an even more pressing issue in the months and years ahead.

What other issues do you think need to take priority this year? Send me your thoughts about the upcoming legislative session by emailing [email protected] or calling 1-800-842-1421.