BRISTOL - With the new legislative session started, local legislators hope to create a dialog on a variety of issues with Gov. Ned Lamont.
For state Sen. Henri Martin, the top priority is achieving fiscal stability and economic growth.
“I am optimistic,” he said. “The governor sounds like he is looking for ideas from everyone and I think we (the Republicans) will be included in the conversation.”
State Rep. Whit Betts said that there has already been a “marked contrast” between the personality of Lamont and his predecessor.
“It seems like he is making a genuine effort to be more accessible and to have an open mind,” said Betts. “But, we won’t really know until he makes his budget proposal in the third week of February.”
“I want to stay optimistic,” said state Rep. Cara Pavalock-D’Amato. “Everyone deserves a chance. I’m looking forward to seeing the budget and going from there.”
Martin said Republicans established a 1.9 billion bonding cap and ensured that $500 million a year goes to schools, which is enough to ensure funding. He said that, after paying for obligations, the remaining $400 to $600 million could be used for the state Department of Transportation. They could then go to the Federal Government for an 80 percent matching grant. By doing so, the state would have nearly $2 billion to repair roads and bridges. Over 30 years, Martin said this plan would result in $70 billion being spent on infrastructure. However, Democrats are looking to spend $100 billion over 30 years.
“I’m fearful that they will be able to rescind the bonding cap and that everything we fought for to correct the state’s structural foundation could be taken away,” he said. “I think they want to bond more money for paid family medical leave.”
Martin said he will attempt to appeal to Martin’s business sense to dissuade him on the minimum wage increase.
Betts said that increasing the minimum wage will not help Lamont create jobs.
“Minimum wage was not meant to be a living wage, but it seems like that’s what they’re trying to convert it into,” he said. “To have a living wage in Connecticut, you need to make $25 an hour.”
State Rep. Chris Ziogas said that the minimum wage increase is “a tough issue” - while it would help lower-income workers to support their families, the state also has to compete with states where minimum wage is lower.
“I don’t believe $15 minimum wage should apply to seasonal help,” he said. “If anything, it should go to full-time workers who are trying to support their families. It isn’t life or death for seasonal workers.”
Martin said the topic of legalization of marijuana was shot down quickly last year because it was a short session.
“There will be short-term gains, but long-term consequences including additional health problems and an impact to the work environment,” said Martin.
Ziogas said that he is also “not well disposed” toward marijuana legalization.
“Legalization would give young people tacit permission to abuse it, especially with all of the edibles and oils out there. I don’t see this as a good thing for young people,” said Ziogas.
Betts said that he wants to focus on addressing opioid abuse and mental illness as a whole. He also intends to push for legislative term limits and aligning the state’s budget schedule with municipal budget schedules.
Ziogas plans to use this session to examine incidents of older residents having their homes foreclosed on. He said that he is worried about expenses for seniors exceeding their ability to pay.
Pavalock-D’Amato said that new legislature she is working on includes exempting seniors and veterans from the $10 per car “passport to parks” charge and expedited gun permits for victims of domestic violence.
She also plans to examine the cost of transporting electricity and welfare reform.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.