Guglielmo and Belsito host town hall meeting in Ashford

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Ashford - posted Mon., Jul. 29, 2013
State Rep. Sam Belsito (foreground) and state Sen. Tony Guglielmo spoke to a group of about two dozen at Knowlton Hall on Wednesday, July 24. Photo by Annie Gentile.
State Rep. Sam Belsito (foreground) and state Sen. Tony Guglielmo spoke to a group of about two dozen at Knowlton Hall on Wednesday, July 24. Photo by Annie Gentile.

A spirited discussion of state government issues ensued at a town hall meeting the evening of July 24 in Ashford. Held in the Knowlton Memorial Hall Auditorium, the question-and-answer discussion was hosted by state Sen. Tony Guglielmo (R-35) and state Rep. Sam Belsito of the 53rd District, serving Tolland, Ashford and Willington. Belsito was elected in a special election June 11, replacing former state Rep. Bryan Hurlburt, who resigned in April to take a position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Bureau.

Guglielmo said the state is facing a serious problem, as it is spending more than it is taking in - a situation, he said, that has been years in the making. “We’re borrowing money for day-to-day operations,” he said. “That’s unsustainable.”

To make matters worse, Guglielmo said, too many people are migrating out of state, especially when they retire, as they find such states as South Carolina and Florida more attractive for maintaining a comfortable lifestyle. “This goes beyond a Democrat-Republican thing,” Guglielmo said. “We need to do a better job.”

“We don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem,” added Belsito. Belsito said that too often, when the state administration wants something, it simply takes it. The two referred to a handout at the forum that claimed the state budget was balanced using over $550 million in “sweeps” and other non-recurring revenues such as tobacco settlement monies and the probate court administration account.

“There’s been a lot of raiding of funds going on. It’s not new. Past governors have done it as well, but we can’t afford to do it any more,” said Guglielmo.

Questions and comments from the public covered a broad range of subjects - from the potential of bringing toll booths back to state highways, to the perception that the state gives far too many grants to Mansfield to the detriment of small surrounding towns like Ashford. One resident said she hoped Guglielmo and Belsito would continue to push for alternate energy sources and embrace pollution mitigation legislation, as such legislation creates jobs while also protecting the environment.

According to their handout, Connecticut has the highest level of long-term unfunded liabilities in the country, totaling $66.1 billion for outstanding debt service, unfunded pensions and unfunded post-employment health and life insurance obligations.

Asked what they would do to reduce that number, Guglielmo said he would start with eliminating all corporate welfare, such as the taxpayer-funded subsidy of up to $291 million to Jackson Laboratories in exchange for their creating 300 new jobs. “It’s absolutely insane,” said Guglielmo, adding that the types of jobs offered will likely lure highly-qualified candidates from all over the world and will not necessarily go to Connecticut residents. “It’s not the small guys getting [these huge subsidies]. It’s the well-connected people with the lobbyists. It’s philosophically wrong and on top of that, it doesn’t work,” he said.

Belsito said he would like to see all the money from gas taxes go to maintaining roads and to put the brakes on all new bills that come in. He said he especially would like to eliminate unfunded mandates. “The biggest one is binding arbitration,” he said. “Binding arbitration is bringing us to our knees in every town.”

While many appeared to agree, one resident challenged Belsito’s stand on the subject, explaining that binding arbitration allows parties to negotiate while at the same time preventing schools from closing or going on strike.

Guglielmo said the state needs to have a plan to rein in their budget and that too often they are legislating by headlines, such as by reacting to the Cheshire murders or the accident on Avon Mountain. “The governor presents a budget and the legislature generally adds to it, so we’re part of the problem,” Guglielmo said. “This is a slow-motion train wreck and it won’t be easy to get things back on track.”


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