Spotlight on key legislation passed during the General Assembly's 2017 regular sessionJune 16, 2017
Despite the fiscal challenges of the 2017 legislative session, the Bridgeport delegation passed key bills that will steady the city’s financial footing, increase economic development, reduce Bridgeport’s unfunded pension liability and create an entertainment hub downtown.
These pieces of legislation will not only take Bridgeport decades into the future, but it will also allow the city to become a regional job creator and leader in renewable energy.
REFINANCING SOME OF BRIDGEPORT’S DEBT
For years Bridgeport taxpayers have been burdened by high property taxes. We sought to address this encumbrance by passing legislation that allows the city to restructure some of its unfunded pension liabilities. By borrowing at a lower interest rate, taxpayers are expected to save more than $70 million over the term of the payoff period. This is just one small way for the city to cut costs while giving taxpayers some of the relief they need.
BECOMING AN ENTERTAINMENT DESTINATION
As Connecticut’s largest city, Bridgeport must find new ways to increase its revenue stream and invest in its assets and attractions. Bridgeport stands to benefit from HB 6948, which will create a statewide entertainment council that will work to secure more concerts and events at Webster Bank Arena and the Ballpark at Harbor Yard. Related legislation will also make it more attractive for boxing and mixed-martial arts events to come to Connecticut. These bills will not only help increase foot traffic at the city’s entertainment attractions, but under previously-passed legislation, Bridgeport will be able to collect a 5 percent service fee on all tickets sold at each venue.
LEADING THE RENEWABLE ENERGY MOVEMENT
Bridgeport is set to become a national model for the reuse of waste heat under HB 6304, which will establish a pilot program in the city to test-drive thermal district heating technology. This pilot program will allow the city to build a Combined Heat and Power Plant that will support the Bridgeport Heating District. This cutting edge technology is the most cost-effective way to heat cities while minimizing environmental impact. Through district heating, the use of natural gas or oil by customers will result in a nearly 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This pilot program will not only allow employees to learn a new skill, but it will increase job growth in Bridgeport. The economic impact for the project’s initial phase is approximately $50 million from construction and full-time jobs.
FUNDING FOR THE FUTURE
In May, the Connecticut State Bond Commission approved $5.14 million in funding to rehabilitate an abandoned dam in Elton Rogers Park in Bridgeport’s North End. Through this project, several thousand feet of piping and channel will be constructed to reduce the volume of flooding in and along the Ox Brook tributary in Bridgeport. This flood control project stands to benefit more than 500 properties – both homeowners and local business owners – that are affected by the downstream flooding of the Ox Brook tributary.
The Bridgeport legislative delegation also worked to secure $3.19 million in funding for a construction contract for phase II of the parking garage repairs at Housatonic Community College, and $2 million in aid which will allow the Southwest Community Health Center to replace its facility at the Marina Village public housing project.
This year, the Connecticut State Bond Commission also approved $1 million in funding for the Bridgeport Public Library to construct a technology center and purchase technology equipment. This will ensure that the library offers a technologically-advanced environment that promotes higher learning and gives city residents the tools they need to succeed in their academic and professional careers.
Together, the Bridgeport legislative delegation has made significant improvements to the city’s local infrastructure, economy and entertainment venues, but we have more work to do.
As the legislature prepares to head into special session to adopt a spending package for the 2018-19 fiscal year, the Bridgeport delegation and I are focused on making sure the city receives the funding and direct aid it needs to maintain its vibrancy.