State representative seeks residents’ opinions on budget items
By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Region - posted Tue., Mar. 5, 2013
Whether you are running a household budget, a business budget, or a budget for a non-profit agency, in a tight economy, every dollar counts. The same holds true for the state government’s budget, which legislators are now discussing.
In an effort to gauge the opinions of the residents of Ashford, Tolland and Willington, whom he represents in the General Assembly, State Rep. Bryan Hurlburt (D-53) has set up an online survey asking constituents to weigh in on what they feel are the most important issues facing their communities.
The survey, which can be found on his legislative webpage at www.housedems.ct.gov/Hurlburt, asks a range of questions in three categories: areas of the greatest concern for individual families, what respondents feel are the most serious problems facing their communities, and what services might need to be cut or protected, including social service programs, public school programs, protecting the environment, and infrastructure repairs, among others.
Hurlburt said responses to the survey have slowed down considerably since the first week it was unveiled, and he welcomes more input. He said what the survey does highlight is the fact that, for many people, there is often one particular service that is very important to them that they feel must be protected.
“[The survey] really shows the breadth of all the state services that serve the community,” Hurlburt said. “These are real programs that help people get by on a daily basis.”
For Hurlburt, the challenge before him and other legislators who sit on the Appropriations Committee is determining where cuts have to be made. “How do you say one group is less important than another?” he said.
“The reality is that we are going on a fourth year of a deficit, and if you haven’t seen a cut to an important service to you, then you should consider yourself lucky. You can only cut so much before you start having an impact,” he said. “The challenge is to balance the level of services with the funds available.”
Hurlburt said the responses he has seen from the survey have been broad-based, but the top three areas of importance to residents appear to be health insurance, environmental threats, and the high cost of utilities.
“I think we’re going to see a real change in the cost of health insurance,” said Hurlburt.
Hurlburt, who holds a regular job in the clean energy field, added that residents can address utility bill issues in some ways by taking steps to reduce their energy usage and have a home energy audit. “Going after the low-hanging fruit is the first and easiest step and it can make a big difference,” he said. He added that it would beneficial to get more solar technology into the state’s urban settings to maximize an infrastructure that is already there.
“The governor is making a big push for natural gas in the state,” said Hurlburt, adding that the Economic Development Commission in Tolland is pushing to extend natural gas into the town. “We’ve got to take advantage of these different opportunities,” he said.
Hurlburt said one of the reasons for offering the survey was to make himself more approachable to his constituents. “It’s hard to get to every event locally, and so this is one more way to do outreach,” he said. “I think legislators do a better job if they have that constant communication with the people they represent.”
“I want to make a difference, and those constituents that choose to interact with me have an advantage. It gives lots of people the opportunity to have a voice,” Hurlburt said.