Dear Neighbors,

Generations of poor financial decisions catching up with us, parity in the House and Senate, and a Governor with little interest in compromise made for a particularly challenging state budget negotiation.
Did you know the state didn’t put a dime into its pension fund from the 1930’s to the ‘70’s? Talk about kicking the can down the road!

I voted for the budget, which was the product of bipartisan compromise, in part because alternatives would have resulted in deep and unacceptable cuts to our towns and non-profit providers.

I am happy to report that we avoided wide-spread income and sales tax hikes as well as fees on cell phone bills. We were able to implement new programs and initiatives geared toward improving the lives of low and middle-income families who are struggling to make ends meet and find jobs in our changing economy. And while some cuts to municipal aid were part of the sacrifice shared by public employees and popular government programs, we managed to place significant limits on spending and borrowing as well as deliver mandate relief for all of our towns.

In this recap of the legislative session I’ve included a summary of the Good and the Bad and the Ugly, as I see it. I plan to work next session to mitigate the negative impacts and continue to act on legislation that will make Connecticut stronger for generations to come.

Warranty Reimbursement for Power Equipment Dealers

This past session, I championed legislation that helps protect power equipment dealers from manufacturers not upholding their part of warranties. This legislation specifies warranty claims for power equipment must include parts and hourly labor rates, protecting small businesses from incurring unseen costs. This common sense legislation had bipartisan support as it passed both chambers. Even though it was vetoed by the governor, I plan on bringing this bill out again next session.

Support for Manufacturers

Connecticut’s Manufacturing Innovation Fund supports growth, innovation and progress of our advanced manufacturing sector by encouraging collaboration with universities, assistance with business development and technical needs, job training, educational programs, and matching funds to leverage federal grants. The Republican budget that was vetoed by the governor gutted funding for these initiatives. But, I’m proud that the budget we just adopted commits additional dollars to this effort to grow good Connecticut jobs.

Social Security Exemption for Seniors

As a part of the budget we passed a provision that will exempt social security and pensions from the state income tax starting in 2019. This will help provide much needed tax relief to those who need it most and allow them to keep more of their money.

Protecting Gold Star Families

This year we passed a bill that allows municipalities to provide a property tax exemption to a parent or surviving spouse of a service member killed in action while performing active military duty. A municipality may exempt up to $20,000 or 10% of the property’s assessed value.

Small Business Development

The newly passed state budget maintains funding for important programs that our small businesses rely on, including: the Bioscience Innovation Fund, Angel Investor Tax Credits, and the Women’s Business Development Council. Each of these programs provides resources and guidance for growing industries and Connecticut-based entrepreneurs. While the overall state budget reduces state spending for a number of programs, it is important that we not abandon successful programs that are creating jobs.

Protecting Your Retirement Savings

Hidden fees can eat up a significant portion of a family’s retirement savings.  This bill improves disclosure of the fees charged in retirement savings plans. It requires companies that administer 403(b) retirement plans offered to nonprofit employees, hospital workers, teachers and school employees to disclose fees paid to any person who provides investment advice. This information must be provided to plan participants directly or in writing upon enrollment and annually thereafter.

Affordable Higher Education

Making college more affordable is one of our top priorities.  With the state budget we restored over $50 million to the University of Connecticut from a Republican budget that would have led to dramatic tuition rate increases and cuts to our flagship university. In addition we took two important steps aimed at lowering the cost of attending our state’s public colleges and universities by cutting red tape-making it easier for schools to secure goods and services while still requiring strong oversight policies. Also, we required state schools to establish guidelines to minimize student costs and cut down on textbooks.

Bipartisan Budget

The bipartisan budget is balanced, protects our communities from the governor’s executive order, and includes critical support for our schools and small businesses. It also includes smart structural reforms that will help address Connecticut’s fiscal challenges. The budget:

  • Ends the governor’s executive order and restores at least 95% of state aid to our community and its public schools
  • Enacts responsible spending and bonding caps
  • Rejects the governor’s proposal to shift costs of teacher pensions onto the towns & property taxpayers
  • Avoids borrowing and underfunding pensions
  • Eliminates the practice of pension spiking
  • Does not include income or sales tax increases

Because of the financial mismanagement of prior administrations, one of our state’s biggest long-term expenses is paying for healthcare and pension benefits for already retired workers. In this budget, we refused to kick the can down the road and paid what we are obligated to do towards the pension fund. In addition, we are now requiring the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) to annually conduct a “stress test analysis” for the teachers’ and state employees’ retirement systems. This report must include projections of benefit levels, pension costs, liabilities, and debt reduction under various scenarios.

To be sure, our fiscal challenges aren’t over but this compromise budget is a step in the right direction.

Green Bank & Energy Efficiency Fund

Unfortunately, with some of the tough budget decisions that were made the legislature made cuts to important programs such as the Green Bank and Energy Efficiency Fund. These funds help lower energy costs, support green initiatives and create good-paying jobs. Although, we were able to restore some of the Green Bank funding from other proposals, which allows them to still operate, I look forward to working on ways to minimize the impact these cuts will have on consumers, and ensure that our state can maintain its commitment to clean energy investments in the market place.

Expanding The Angel Investor Program

Small business owners put in a lot of hard work and long hours, yet they sometimes struggle to find the financial backing required to get their ideas off the ground. The Angel Investor program helps meet this need, offering investors a tax credit for contributing to a fund established to support the growth of small businesses. This year we passed legislation expanding the types of small businesses that can benefit from the program in order to help even more Connecticut entrepreneurs succeed.

Capitol Update 2017 (pdf)