State delegation looks back at recent legislative session
FAIRFIELD — The town’s state delegation had a chance Wednesday morning to talk about what they were most of proud of from the recent session, and what they see as priorities.
The chance came at a breakfast sponsored by the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and CBIA.
The fact that the General Assembly adopted a bi-partisan budget was a point of pride for the delegation — state Sen. Tony Hwang, R-28, state Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-132, state Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-133, and state Rep. Laura Devlin, R-134.
“I think the biggest thing we do every year is the budget,” McCarthy said. “This year, I think the fact that we were able to pass a bi-partisan budget is really important.”
Devlin said “there is no doubt” that having a greater balance between the two political parties led to the ability to pass that budget, and have actual discussions on different aspects of the state spending plan. “That’s how we were able to stop a slew of proposed taxes,” Devin said.
For Kupchick, who owns a heating and plumbing business with her husband, focusing on the needs of small businesses has been important to her. She said she formed a small business advisory council that meets about every six weeks. “Connecticut is a difficult place to run a business,” Kupchick said, “it just is.”
She said the state’s financial picture is a deterrent to businesses coming to Connecticut. “They’re afraid they’re going to be hit with some kind of new thing,” Kupchick said. “That’s a big challenge.”
Hwang noted they would be back in Hartford next week for a special session, in an attempt to override the governor’s veto of a program that could grant tax credits to business owners for apprenticeship programs.
“It was unanimous in the House and the Senate,” Hwang said, but vetoed over the loss of $650,000 out of the tax coffers from the credits. “It was another example of the legislative body working on a bipartisan basis.”
Devlin said she’d like to see the budget process itself changed, so the legislature first determines what money it has available to spend, and then decides where to spend the money. Now, she said, it is the other way around.
On the topic of transportation, Vahey said they were able to spare major cuts to bus service in the state. While she said it was likely that those at the Chamber breakfast take buses to and from work, many of their employees rely on buses. “We have to fund transportation,” she said.
Hwang said the state may have 200 projects, but those projects are not prioritized. A lack of priorities, he said, leads to a bus way being funded in another part of the state, rather than century-old walk bridges on Fairfield County’s train lines.
“We have the highest gas tax in the country,” Hwang said. “Where is that tax money going? We have to be respectful of the people we represent, and not simply do the party’s bidding.”