Legislators hear from constituents

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Region - posted Mon., Feb. 28, 2011
Rita Conrad of Pomfret and Richard Feder of Killingly came to speak with their state legislators. Photos by Denise Coffey.
Rita Conrad of Pomfret and Richard Feder of Killingly came to speak with their state legislators. Photos by Denise Coffey.

When state Rep. Daniel Rovero (D-51st District) and other elected officials held open office hours to meet with constituents on Feb. 26 at the Killingly Town Hall, approximately 25 people attended to ask questions and share their concerns. Key among those concerns was the state budget released recently by Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Rovero calls himself a “fiscally conservative Democrat.” He said he wants to give Malloy’s ideas a chance for discussion and debate. While he couldn’t speak about all the specifics, he said he was hard at work reading through the massive budget. “I love budgets,” Rovero said. “I understand budgets. But I want to see a budget that isn’t one penny more than last year’s.”

When Joan Baker of Thompson asked Rovero to promise not to pass any new bills that would fund new spending, he had to decline. It’s more complicated than that, he said, trying to explain his position on wanting to read and assess each bill on its own merits.

Dale Dauphinais wanted specific information about the budget. “We want to see what’s in it,” Dauphinais said. “I’d like a rep. to explain it to me.” While Rovero, Mae Flexer (D-44th District) and state Sen. Don Williams, Jr. (D-29th District) talked about some general budget considerations, they referred Dauphinais to the website, www.ct.gov. The governor’s office will mail summaries to residents who call and ask for them.

Most in attendance were concerned with the state of Connecticut’s economy. “How much more do we do?” one woman asked. “Most states are cutting and consolidating. We can’t keep passing bills to create stress on communities. We need to stop creating bills and mandates.”

Rovero agreed. He spoke of sitting in Hartford from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., listening to testimony on pages and pages of mandates. As a former mayor, he said he understands the difficulties that mandates can present a town. He said he would favor ordinances when possible, rather than mandates.

Rovero, Flexer and Williams heard concerns that the state was approaching bankruptcy, that Malloy’s budget was a “tax-and-spend” budget, and that the state was “addicted to spending.”

Rovero said that there were some programs that you had to fund without listing them specifically. “I don’t want new taxes,” he assured the audience, “but how do you make up a $3.6 billion deficit?”

One man suggested a flat tax on personal income in order to take taxes out of the political arena.

A Plainfield resident said that he was going to lose a $500 real estate property tax credit, and yet some people who pay no taxes at all were going to be able to get $1,700 back from the government. “That’s a redistribution of wealth,” one woman said. “That isn’t fair.”

“The bottom line is that we are in the worst economic downturn in our times,” Williams said. “Texas is in far worse economic difficulties than we are. South Carolina, Nevada and states all across the country are behind the eight-ball. Part of it is long-term problems. The economic downturn is responsible for most of it. There’s been a downturn in the economy.”

Fred Ruder, from Killingly, said that government is the number-one employer in Connecticut. “That is a problem,” he said. He cited the conclusions in a report by the University of Connecticut Center of Economic Analysis that showed no aggregate job creation in the state in the last 20 years. The report, he said, went on to say that Connecticut needs to have better data collection and availability, as well as an integrated system to track the state’s economic performance.

“We’re flat-lined,” Ruder said. “We need timely, quality data. Developing data is essential to help bring in jobs to Connecticut.”

Williams agreed with the need for more and better data. He spoke of meeting recently with business leaders who were generally supportive of the budget. But the state’s challenges aren’t just with those things in the control of the government, he said. Business taxes are not that bad in the state, “but things not in our control are off the charts,” he said. “Energy costs, housing, health care, property taxes - these are the areas we don’t compete well in. Millions of jobs that we’ve lost will never return. We can’t compete with Third World countries,” he said.

A retired teacher who said he was in his 80s ran through a list of suggestions he offered the legislators. Cut back or abolish mandates imposed on communities, he said. Stop buying land all over the place. Don’t pay any public official more than the governor. He suggested exemptions for people paying for long-term health insurance. The benefit to the state is enormous, he suggested.

The meeting didn’t satisfy several residents who lingered in the meeting room after two and a half hours. One woman said that she felt like 90 percent of the population didn’t know what was going on and didn’t know how to voice their opinions. Rovero and Flexer can be reached at 1-800-842-8267. Visit the website www.housedems.ct.gov for more information. Williams can be reached at 1-800-842-1420. For more information, visit www.senatedems.ct.gov.


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