Greenwich legislators talk state budget worries with residents [Greenwich Time]

November 10, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Greenwich Time

A looming state budget deficit and possible service cuts were on the minds of Greenwich residents who met with their legislative representatives Monday morning over coffee.

The entire Greenwich delegation of State Sen. L. Scott Frantz (R-36th) and State Reps. Livvy Floren (R-149th), Michael Bocchino (R-150th) and Fred Camillo (R-151st) spoke informally to about 30 residents at the Glory Days Diner about taxes, marijuana, genetically modified foodstuffs and regulations.

The new legislative session is slated to begin in February. Bocchino said successful budget talks between both parties in the legislature and the governor’s office were contingent on understanding the extent of the problem.

“We can’t really go in to fix the budget without all being on the same page,” Bocchino said. “They’ve come to the agreement that (the deficit) is between $350 and $370 million.”

In order to close the deficit, Gov. Dannel Malloy has proposed cuts to Greenwich Hospital, the Department of Developmental Services and the Department of Mental Health and Addictive Services.

“My concern personally is that we’re cutting a lot of services to the most vulnerable and we need to take a better look at it,” Bocchino said.
Camillo said discussions were also being held to lessen the impact of the hospital cuts.

Local business owner Tom Cardello told the legislators that the amount of paperwork owners need to do discourages people from starting new businesses, and that the state’s regulations and tax code were stacked against cost-savings.

“We need regulation, but we need regulation that makes sense,” Cardello said. “I had a business where I had to let someone go and my unemployment insurance from the state went up. This was a business that was struggling and when my unemployment insurance went up, what did it do? It took a month off the life of my business and that extra month might have been time when the business found a way to stay in place.”

Floren said a tax panel is evaluating the current system.

“This panel is looking to simplify the code to bring equity,” Floren said. “We tax anything that moves. We need to simplify it.”

Among the attendees Monday was Registered Nurse Stephanie Paulmeno, who was concerned about marijuana dispensaries in Stamford. The dispensaries are banned in Greenwich.

Frantz said pharmaceuticals in general were being looked at on a national scale.

“At least 36 attorneys general … are going to bring a class action suit against Perdue Pharma and Reckitt Benckiser,” Frantz said. “The substance of the suit is that they misled the public in terms of how addictive these drugs are and that they misled the medical community about how much dosage they’re supposed to prescribe to someone suffering from injuries or pain.”

Town resident Demosthenes Kostas told the legislators that he wanted genetically modified foodstuffs labeled.

“I don’t want big brother to dictate what I’m going to eat,” town resident Demosthenes Kostas said. “I want labeling. They can sell anything they want as long as they tell me what’s in there so I can decide.”

Camillo, a proponent of GMO labeling, said the state has passed a bill requiring the labeling but has held off implementing it until other nearby states do the same. New Hampshire and Vermont have passed similar legislation; New York and New Jersey have not.

Old Greenwich resident Bob Sloane urged the legislators to help keep the Old Greenwich Post Office open. Rumors that the post office will close have been around since June.

“There’s a lot of speculation they’re going to replace it with a smaller retail facility but that hasn’t been confirmed,” Sloane said. “One of the staff members said last week they’ve been told it’s official and it’s closing Dec. 31 and there’s been no publicity about this.”

The decision to close a post office is made on the federal level, he was told. He was urged to get in touch with U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.

“The squeakiest wheel will prevail in issues like that,” Frantz said. “If you make enough noise with your federal delegation and get the homeowners involved, you can stop this.”