Sen. Harding, legislators discuss issues at Goshen forum

February 28, 2024

Legislators discuss issues at Goshen forum


GOSHEN — Six legislators took time Saturday to touch base with constituents at a legislative forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Litchfield County.

The gathering at Camp Cochipianee drew a crowd of more than 50 for a discussion of the issues with state Sen. Stephen Harding, R-Brookfield, and Reps. Karen Reddington-Hughes, R-Woodbury; Maria Horn, D-Salisbury; Cindy Harrison, R-Southbury; John Piscopo, R-Thomaston, and Jay M. Case, R-Winsted.

The forum gave legislators a chance to provide an update on the current session and the public a chance to express concerns, ask questions and get to know their representatives. What the crowd got was a picture of a state that has improved a previously bleak financial condition through the continued use of “fiscal guardrails” that have resulted in a $4 billion budget surplus.

“We are keenly aware that every single dollar we spend comes out of the pockets of taxpayers,” said Horn, chairwoman of the legislature’s Finance Committee.

In addition to accumulating a robust surplus, the legislature has put a large dent in the state’s pension fund deficit and is in the process of modifying the two-year budget approved last year so it is more efficient, Horn noted.

“Everyone at this table has worked in a bipartisan way in representing you, and we’ll continue to do that with respect and honesty,” she said.

Despite the progress made, it was agreed that residents are having more trouble than ever balancing household budgets.
“A lot of people are hurting, including those who need help with medical costs and energy assistance,” Case said. “We need to do better to help the population that is the most vulnerable.”

Discussion also focused on the potential of an electric vehicle mandate in Connecticut mirroring the one in California, which is outlawing the sale of gas-powered motor vehicles by 2035. The legislature has dismissed the same mandate in Connecticut, with Harding saying implementing a mandate based on what a state 3,000 miles away has done would be wrong.

He said Connecticut lacks the infrastructure needed to service the addition of thousands of new electric vehicles. Placing charging stations on every street corner would come at a cost Eversource Energy and United Illuminating would happily place on the backs of utility customers, he noted.

“We’d have an increase in our electric bills like we’ve never seen,” Harding said.

The legislators agreed the state needs to assist towns and cities with the cost of 14 days of early voting in November. Harding, Reddington- Hughes and Harrison called that time span too long and said finding enough poll workers for two weeks will be difficult, if not impossible.

“We can’t find enough workers as it is,” Harrison said, adding, “14 days is too many and would result in a process that would lend itself to errors.”

Two weeks of voting also would lead to lower participation, Reddington-Hughes said.
“You lose the urgency vote when you elongate the process,” she said. “I don’t understand why we’re doing something that doesn’t benefit us.”

Horn countered that state voters in 2023 overwhelmingly approved early voting.
“It is a bedrock of democracy and we have to make it work,” she said, “although it is an unfunded mandate that we have to address.”