Dear Neighbor,

Recently I voted in favor of a truly bipartisan budget agreement that passed both the Senate and the House with an overwhelming majority and was signed into law by the Governor.

Ending this stalemate is an important step forward for our communities and our state. I’ve worked hard to ensure that this budget protects Bristol from devastating cuts, maintains vital social services, and invests in the growth of our economy. This budget also fully funds our pension obligations, unlike the Republican budget that I voted against earlier this year.

Outside of the Capitol, I have championed an initiative to repurpose Memorial Boulevard School for use as an arts and theater magnet school. 
In January I welcomed House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz to MBS to discuss the proposal, and in August the Board of Education voted to file an application for the magnet school’s creation. 

It is a privilege to represent you in the General Assembly, and I look forward to hearing from you in 2018.

Care 4 Kids Funding Restored

The state budget restores funding to the Care 4 Kids Child Care Subsidy Program. This funding will allow for the program to reopen for enrollment and begin to address the 5,769 families who have been on the waiting list. This program helps low-income families afford safe, quality child care and allows parents to remain in the workforce. Bristol has  272 children enrolled.

Support For Small Businesses And Manufacturers

The  budget maintains funding for important programs such as the Bioscience Innovation Fund, Angel Investor Tax Credits, and the Women’s Business Development Council. Our small businesses depend on these programs to provide resources and guidance for growing industries  and Connecticut-based entrepreneurs.

The budget also commits dollars to Connecticut’s Manufacturing Innovation Fund, which supports the growth, innovation and progress of our advanced manufacturing sector by: encouraging collaboration with universities; providing assistance with business development, technical needs, job training, and educational programs; and matching funds to leverage federal grants.

Creation Of The Office Of Health Strategy

In an effort to develop a comprehensive health care vision for Connecticut, this budget creates an Office of Health Strategy. This new office will oversee the innovative patient-centered health care reforms that we have put in place in recent years, including efforts to collect and analyze data, modernize the way we pay for medical services, and strengthen oversight of health care facilities. With everything in flux at the federal level, having the Office of Health Strategy in place will help Connecticut make sure we are putting patients first.

Honoring Fallen Soldiers

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 on active military duty. A municipality may exempt up to $20,000 or 10% of the property’s assessed value.

Looking Out For Seniors

While we had to make difficult choices as part of this budget agreement, making sure that Connecticut is an affordable and accessible place to live for our seniors was a priority of mine. The budget that we passed funds the CT Home Care Program for Elders and Dial-A-Ride, both services that allow seniors to stay in their homes for longer, rather than go into more expensive nursing home care. In addition, our budget included important steps to ease the tax burden on seniors, like keeping the $200 property tax credit that the Governor proposed reducing and phasing out income taxes on Social Security and pensions.

College Affordability

Making college more affordable is one of my top priorities as Vice Chair of the Higher Education Committee. With the state budget we restored $55 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 to make 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 textbook costs.

Bonding and Spending Caps

The budget created a $1.9 billion cap on state bonding. This cap will help to control the projected increases in debt service payments, and will require the Governor and State Bond Commission to prioritize what projects are most worthy of bonding.  With this cap, by reducing bonding this year, we expect to save nearly $30 million in debt service payments in the next fiscal year.

The budget strengthened our existing spending cap. Under the new cap, funding for pensions, distressed municipalities, and money used to receive matching federal grants will all come under the cap over time. This is important because it more accurately reflects what we are spending as a state and will force future legislatures to prioritize spending on programs that work and that our communities need. In addition, because it passed with such a significant majority, it will be harder to change the definition of the cap in the future.

Fixing the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) Formula

One of our most critical obligations as legislators is making sure that we are funding our local education system and providing our students with the supports they need. This year, we adopted a new formula for funding our schools that takes into consideration all of the factors that go into student success and ensures that every school district receives support. Under the budget that passed, Bristol was scheduled to receive $44.8 million this year and $45.3 million next year. As of November 2017, the Governor proposed further cuts to town aid, but I will fight to ensure we keep our funding whole.

Transportation Project Oversight

Connecticut’s aging transportation infrastructure has a real impact on our bottom line. According to a report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the average motorist in CT pays an extra $864 per year because of driving on roads that are in need of repair. That’s why I’m glad that as part of this budget, we agreed to a long-term plan to move more sales tax revenue into the Special Transportation Fund. These resources will help the fund stay solvent. There is still a lot more we need to do, but this was an important step forward.

Capitol Update 2017 (pdf)