What I'm fighting forOctober 25, 2017
As the 88th District state representative, I’ve been working to address issues that affect us on a local and national level. This year, we’ve furthered our efforts to increase criminal justice reform in the state, passed key legislation that aims to help small businesses, and we have worked to strengthen pregnancy protections for women in the workplace. But our work is not done.
With both political parties tied in the state Senate, and Democrats holding a thin 79-72 majority in the House of Representatives, it was difficult to pass the broad, sweeping legislation that I have been fighting for since I was elected.
During this legislative session, I have fought to build a more progressive future for Connecticut by advocating for legislation that implements new sources of revenue and allows us to remain competitive with surrounding states.
As an elected official, I believe legislators should be teachers and organizers. We should listen, compile the best of our constituents’ ideas, and be unafraid to push back even when the numbers are not there. While we have passed legislation that puts Hamden and Connecticut residents first, these are the bills that did not garner enough support to receive the Legislature’s approval this year. However, I remain committed to fighting for the passage of these types of legislation during the 2018 session.
Closing the Carried Interest Loophole
Hedge fund and equity fund managers pay the federal capital gains rate, not the federal income tax. Since these hedge funds are providing a service, the money they make should be treated like income, not capital. This misclassification is costing the state over $500 million a year.
Large Employer Fee
When big box stores open a branch in Connecticut, oftentimes, its workers are underpaid and profits are siphoned out of the state. Wal-Mart has protocols to direct its workers to apply for state aid. This means the average Connecticut taxpayer is subsidizing these large businesses to underpay its employees. By instituting a large employer fee, we would offset this cost.
Property Tax Reform
Greenwich’s property tax rate is set at 11 mills, Hamden residents pay a tax rate of 47 mills, and Hartford comes in at 75 mills. We can equalize property tax rates by having a single, statewide property tax which would be used for equitable funding of our public education system.
Eliminate Property Tax Exemptions
Each year, $750 million is lost to property tax exemptions for education systems, religious institutions, and government-owned property. A large chunk of this loss is in New Haven and Hartford alone. I believe all property should be taxed the same.
Increased Taxation on the Wealthy
In the past 30 years, the top 1 percent of Connecticut income earners have obtained 84 percent of all income gains, while everyone else’s wages have stagnated or declined. In the richest state in the wealthiest country, we should be asking our top-earners to pay their fair share. If you earn $165,000 or more, you pay at most 8 percent of your income to state and local taxes, and those who make $75,000 or less pay at minimum 14 percent. We need to establish a tax structure where everyone pays their fair share.
Allowing the Dreamers to Access Institutional Aid
Right now, an entire generation of children pays into our public higher education system, but do not have the ability to access the funds to which a percentage of their tuition is diverted. This institutional inequity could be resolved easily.
Increasing Minimum Wage
If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation from its high point in the 1970’s, it would be over $20 an hour now. We cannot expect Connecticut residents to support themselves in a high-cost state when a full-time, minimum-wage job pays barely over $20,000 per year. Once we get the minimum salary to a livable wage, we can index it to inflation and prevent this problem from occurring in the future.
Aid in Dying
Rather than watching a loved one die in agony over a long period, this legislation would give adults who provide informed consent the ability to pass when they choose.
Paid Family and Medical Leave
A medical leave system would be relatively inexpensive to administer, and would be funded by employees at a 0.5 percent payroll tax. New Jersey and New York now have paid leave laws and will quickly begin to attract our best and brightest if we do not provide the same.
Regulation of Marijuana
If cigarettes and liquor are legal, then marijuana should be too. Colorado just passed the $500 million mark for revenues raised in nearly three years. Let’s focus on how to deal with how to enforce DUIs and ensuring that marijuana doesn’t get into the hands of children, not whether to legalize.
National Popular Vote
Every vote should count and the delegate system we have today is outdated. If Connecticut joins the pact; we become closer to ensuring that there is no such thing as a wasted national vote.
Ranked Choice Voting
Another name for this is run-off elections. Instead of being forced to vote for the person you dislike the least, because you don’t want to waste your vote, you would be able to vote in order of preference.
No-Excuse Absentee Ballots
Rather than forcing citizens to vote on a workday, we could implement an opt-out mail-in voting system. You would have weeks ahead of time to mail in your ballot, but if you want to vote at a ballot box you could also choose to do so. We would need less polling locations, there would be fewer lines, and it would cost less to have elections.
No Subsidies for Companies with High Executive Pay
If a company’s Chief Executive Officer earns more than 100 times the average Connecticut income – around $71,000 – the company should be ineligible for subsidies and grants from the state.
Increasing Legislative Pay
Legislators, representatives and senators are paid $28,000 per year, which has not increased since 2001. The people who are able to hold this job is severely limited, and attracts retirees and the independently wealthy. The number of working class individuals I have personally asked to run for office is now in the double digits, because working families cannot take the pay cut. What we are left with is a non-representative sample holding office.
Our state could provide funding for municipalities that want to start expanding their Internet capabilities, increasing speeds, access and decreasing costs. This is a large upfront cost, with exceptional long-term benefits. This access would bring up the educational floor, provide better user experiences to tech entrepreneurs, and would bring Connecticut to the forefront of the information technology era.
CEO-Pay Ratio Tax
As average CEO pay explodes to over 200 times their average employee, we need regulations to help our labor force. As a company pays its CEO more, they should pay a higher corporate tax rate.
Presidential Disclosure of Tax Returns
The American public deserves to know who is leading them. For 40 years, this has been an accepted fact, but now it is clear that we will need to begin to regulate transparency.
Ninety-eight percent of funding that goes toward Medicare is paid back out for service. Compare that to 80 percent or less for private health insurers. Government does insurance very well; because there is no research and development necessary. We just need to collect the money, and divvy it back out. A public option would go a long way to reducing health care costs – an important goal when 50 percent of all bankruptcies in the United States stems from a health crisis.
Long-term Environmental Goals
Connecticut has the opportunity to reclaim its status as a national model for renewable energy and implementing measures to reduce climate change. By providing more subsidies to organizations like CT Green Bank and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) we can work toward building a gridless energy ecosystem that is solar-powered and allows homeowners to create and store their own energy. This would not only help boost the state’s economy but will have a positive effect on its health for years to come.
Increasing Vaccination Rates
Any parent can send their child to public school without vaccinating their child by using a religious exemption loophole. As a result, Connecticut vaccination has decreased by 10 percent since just 2014 – only 70 percent of children are getting their recommended vaccinations by the time they are two. We need to undergo an education campaign regarding the safety and efficacy of vaccinations.
Increasing Police Accountability
Lawmakers sought to restore trust between citizens and law enforcement by passing legislation that established more police accountability and increased transparency. By immediately suspending any police officer who uses excessive force, prohibiting the use of deadly force, and requiring a preliminary status report to be completed within 15 days, not only will our communities be better protected but our officers can do their jobs more safely and effectively.
Universal Basic Income
To help address poverty and unemployment rates, we could adopt a universal basic income, which would give individuals more financial security. Under this measure, every person would be guaranteed an established minimum income regardless of their social class, gender, place of residency, employment status or age.
We can create a bank that is better aligned with our priorities for Connecticut by establishing a banking system that is owned, operated and controlled by the state. Not only will this increase access to capital for businesses, but it will spur economic development, and allow Connecticut to partner with local banks to help them grow and multiply.
Passing these bills will help create a more financially stable and economic-friendly environment for Connecticut residents to live and work in. As residents, you can help inspire and make change. It is vital that state legislators hear from you to learn what issues you are passionate about most.
Moving Connecticut Forward
Although this was a challenging session, we worked to pass some important legislation that will help to make our state a better place to live.
- H.B. 6668 strengthens current protections for pregnant and nursing women under the state's anti-discrimination law.
- H.B. 6695 bans "Conversion Therapy," which is a barbaric practice that uses psychological and emotional abuse in an attempt to change the sexual orientation of gay children.
- H.B. 5743 increases the punishment for a hate crime from a misdemeanor to a felony. Connecticut now has some of the strongest hate crime laws in the nation and sends the clear message that our state will not tolerate racism, violence or hatred.
- The state Bonding Commission approved $297,800 in funding for the Hamden Police Department for the purchase of body cameras and video storage devices. This simultaneously helps residents and police feel safer in our community.