Greenwich reps criticize spending, decry acrimonious legislative session [Greenwich Time]

July 16, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Greenwich Time

With the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance, the economic forecast for Connecticut was one of doom and gloom at the annual League of Women Voters of Greenwich Legislative Picnic.

“This was the most frustrating year I have had in Hartford,” state Rep. Fred Camillo, R-151st, told a crowd of more than 30 gathered under a tent at a private home in Riverside Tuesday.

State Senator Scott Frantz
State Senator Scott Frantz

Camillo, state Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-36th, and state Rep. Livvy Floren, R-149th, touched on topics such as highway tolls, but the economy and the budget dominated the discussion.

Frantz contended that without budget “tricks” the annual growth in the state’s spending is close to 14 percent.

“We’re growing our budget too fast and the businesses know what’s going on and individuals know what’s going on,” he said before asking for a show of hands from the crowd of how many people know others who had left the state. “We have major employers like Aetna and GE and Traveler’s threatening to leave and smaller companies who have just given up. They feel it’s not worth being in Connecticut.”

Frantz also criticized the budget’s hospital tax, calling it amoral and saying it would cause people’s health care costs to rise.

Camillo credited Gov. Dannel Malloy for making some tough choices on budget cuts, but said the Republicans had an even tougher time than usual getting their ideas into the final spending package.

“Our budget didn’t raise taxes … and theirs did by $2 billion,” Camillo said. “Once the budget was passed the governor fine tuned it a bit, but there’s still a huge budget that raises taxes and it’s not a good budget.”

Calling the session “the worst legislative experience of my 15 years in office,“ Floren cited frequent fights between Malloy and both Republican and Democratic caucuses over issues including gambling, tuition for undocumented students, taxes and spending cuts.

“Disagreements and differing points of view are healthy and lead to meaningful discourse and consensus outcomes, but these arguments were polarized and personal and were played out in the media,” Floren said. “This past session was … cranky and callous, ghastly and grueling, arduous and acrimonious and that is putting it politely.”

One example of bipartisan achievement that stood in contrast to the rest of the session, Floren said, was the bond bill put forth by the state’s General Bonding Subcommittee, of which she is a ranking member.

“We swept close to $300 million from accounts that were authorized but had not been used since 2008,” she said. “These cuts enabled the creation of new bonding initiatives such as regional construction projects for shared facilities, the purchase of body cameras for law enforcement officials and improved technology for public health medical records and patient care coordination.”