SOUTHINGTON - Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz stopped in to Paul Gregory‚Äôs for breakfast Tuesday morning, chatting with residents about a wide range of issues.
Aresimowicz, a Democratic representative whose districts include Berlin and Southington, said that he tries to hold breakfast events at least once or twice a month.
He stated that residents bring up a wide range of issues to him and that he values their input when considering legislation. At Tuesday‚Äôs event, about a half-dozen residents attended including teacher, Dan Hart and his wife, Susan, as well as developers such as Tony Denorfia and Mark Lovely.
Denorfia said that his industry was ‚Äúdecimated‚ÄĚ by the current state economy and said that he hopes to see some ‚Äúpositive motion‚ÄĚ happening soon.
‚ÄúWe are losing 30,000 people a year - that‚Äôs like the entire population of Berlin moving somewhere else,‚ÄĚ he said.
Aresimowicz said that some plans being considered to help people remain in state include a $500 tax credit to college graduates who come back to Connecticut, with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students being a priority. He added that the state has been working hard to help address the shortage of skilled workers coming in to the manufacturing industry.
‚ÄúThis year, manufacturing jobs surpassed finance and insurance,‚ÄĚ said Aresimowicz. ‚ÄúGoodwin College opened a new, $10 million branch and we are re-tooling our education throughout the state to have more of a focus on the trades.‚ÄĚ
When Dan Hart questioned him about education, Aresimowicz suggested that special education needs to be centralized.
‚ÄúI think we need to regionalize - have these students come to a central location instead of trying to force a square peg into a round hole,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúThe needs of special education students are often vastly different than the needs of other students. I understand the value of having them spend some time in a mainstream school, but let‚Äôs at least consider it.‚ÄĚ
Later in the conversations, Aresimowicz noted that although there had been ‚Äú30 something gubernatorial candidates‚ÄĚ announcing, he had yet to endorse one from either side.
‚ÄúI want to take them aside and ask them ‚Äėwhat is your plan?‚Äô‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe are in a time when we are redefining ourselves.‚ÄĚ
Aresimowicz also said that infrastructure needed to be a priority and said that 30 percent of the state‚Äôs bridges were in failing condition, with 50 percent of them considered to be deficient.
He said that he is ‚Äútotally for‚ÄĚ having tolls, but would support having state residents be able to get an ‚ÄúE-Z Pass‚ÄĚ at a discount.
Other ideas Aresimowicz discussed for saving the state money included selling off rest stops to private owners and letting them open convenience stores in them.
Aresimowicz also gave Gov. Dannel P. Malloy credit for some savings that had been made.
‚ÄúWe went from 54,000 state employees to 42,000 and went from 19,000 supervisors to 12,000 supervisors,‚ÄĚ said Aresimowicz. ‚ÄúWe went from 86 departments to 63. Overall we need to be more cost efficient and I think that he is trying to push municipalities to become more cost efficient - he just takes things a few steps too far. He approached this in a terrible way - we need to pull the money away in phases, not all at once.‚ÄĚ
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.