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2020 Political Round Up


By Thomas Nocera, Staff Writer

All five of Connecticut’s U.S. House of Representative seats are up for grabs in this year’s election. A field full of Republican hopefuls are intent on staging their own small upset against the five Democratic incumbents. While they might not agree on much, candidates from both parties claim this election could well shape the face of politics for years to come. The Republican primary will be Aug. 11. The general election will be Nov. 3.

With virtual conventions wrapped up, here’s a list of the heavyweight contenders, who have gotten nods from their respective parties.

First District: Central, includes Bristol, Torrington, and Hartford

Republican: Mary Fay

Mary Fay is currently West Hartford’s town councilor. A self-professed fiscal conservative, Fay intends on bringing that ideology with her to Washington if elected. She has a long history of campaign experience, winning two-terms as an elected member of the West Hartford Town Council where she served on the budget and finance committee. In her professional life, she was an executive director for the Connecticut Retirement Service Authority, and worked in finance for General Electric and ING. Fay will be running against incumbent John Larson – her former high school history teacher.

Democratic: John Larson

John Larson has served as the first District House Representative since 1999. Before that, he was a multi-term state senator. During his time in D.C., he has championed a number of causes: in 2007 he sponsored the Energy Independence and Security Act, which sought to increase the development and use of renewable energies. He also introduced the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 to Congress, which sought to provide loans and support to small businesses nationwide. Most recently, he was allegedly involved in a social experiment with food stamps, Medicaid, and social security issues to help shape policies in congress.

Second District: Eastern, includes New London, Enfield, Norwich

Republican: Tom Gilmer

An Ohio native, Gilmer moved to Connecticut in 2014 where he founded and operated a large a construction management company that has worked throughout the state. He also served as a trade market manager for energy giant BP. Gilmer believes the private sector thrives when the government is kept on the periphery. He favors the looser regulations in the private sector, and has struck a heavy economic note on campaign trail thus far.

Democrat: Joe Courtney

Courtney was a lawyer and Connecticut House of Representatives member before being elected to Congress in 2006. There, he serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Education and the Workforce. Courtney was a vocal opponent to the Trump corporate tax cuts and Muslim travel ban. He is well known for his support of District 2’s large defense jobs industry.

Third District : Central, includes New Haven and Middleton

Republican: Margaret Streiker

Streiker hopes her background managing large real estate investments and operations will give her an edge in the uphill battle to replace District 3’s long serving incumbent, Rosa DeLauro. Her flagship company, Newcastle Reality, managed and invested millions in residential and commercial properties in New York City. However, it was not without controversy. Before closing in 2019, Newcastle Reality was accused of cost inflation on projects, receiving illegal kickbacks from construction contractors, and illegal buyouts of rent-stabilized apartments. Streiker herself was never singled out – but other employees, and the company as a whole, were.  She has made it a point to highlight that, though she is a republican, she would be willing to oppose the president and work across the aisle when necessary.

Democrat: Rosa DeLauro

DeLauro began serving as District 3’s representative in 1991. Since, has a history of championing progressive causes in D.C. DeLauro’s taken vocal and progressive stances on healthcare, gun control, and campaign finance reform. She is one of the original members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and currently sits on a subcommittee dedicated to the organization of federal funds for coronavirus relief efforts.

Fourth District : Southwestern, includes Stamford, Bridgeport, and Norwalk

Republican: Johnathan Riddles

Riddles is a New York native and self-professed “green” republican who has worked extensively in the financial services industry as a private wealth manager. He is currently vice president of The Private Bank, a division of Bank of America catering to clients with substantial assets. With little previous entanglements in party politics, he is hoping voters will see his appeal as a political outsider.

Democrat: Jim Himes

Himes has served as District 4’s representative since 2009 and currently sits on the Committee on Finical Services, and the House Intelligence Committee. He has been a consistent advocate of financial industry reform and a supporter of green energy initiatives. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare reformation will be one of his campaigns central initiatives.

Fifth District : Northwestern, includes Waterbury and Danbury

Republican: David X. Sullivan

Sullivan has been an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump and his economic policies. He’s running on a platform centered on lowering taxes and the deregulating the private sector. Sullivan has voiced strong opposition to the ‘Green New Deal’ and ‘Medicare For All’ initiatives in Congress – efforts supported by District 5’s incumbent, Representative Jahana Hayes. Prior to being nominated, Sullivan worked as a prosecutor for the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General. 

Democrat: Jahana Hayes

Waterbury resident Jahana Hayes is the first African American woman to represent Connecticut in Congress. Before politics, the one-term incumbent was a career teacher. The first term representative won the 2018 election with nearly 56 percent of the vote and has since focused heavily on education and healthcare reform. In her first term, her key vote was to impeach President Donald Trump. During the coronavirus pandemic, Hayes has been vocal in highlighting disparities and difficulties in distance learning regiments, and has been critical of the safety of economic re-openings. But Hayes is unaware of a pending lawsuit against her for political obstruction by her former campaign staffers, who helped sabotage a stronger candidate than Hayes to run for congress against former House Representative Elizabeth Esty. Hayes waited out Esty’s scandal and jumped in the race after she resigned amid a scandal about sexual harassment in her office. Some say Hayes had news of Esty’s impending resignation and her cronies worked for three years to stage adverse experiences for the other black woman, who was deemed the most eligible to be the first African-American congresswoman from Connecticut. The plan to put Hayes in congress began when she enrolled in graduate school while the other black woman was a professor at a top 20 university.

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Hartford Police to Investigate Rogue Cop


HARTFORD — Hartford police are investigating one of thier colleagues: Officer Jay Szepanksi.

As a result of this investigation, Szepanksi is no longer in his current role. He was assigned to the property room, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Szapanksi is accused of using social media to post profane language about Hartford residents.

Former Police Chief James Rovella speaks to journalists as Hartford CouncilmanThomas “TJ” Clarke looks on ; Photo by CTMirror

While authorities stress his alleged posts don’t represent the entire Hartford Police Department, Hartford residents are not surprised by this behavior. They want immediate action to what clearly is an affront to many hard-working individuals who live in the capital city.

William Francis Moffett Jr posted this on Facebook: “Terminate the officer immediately.”

Another Hartford dweller named Allen Freeman asked: “ Where are all the ‘Good cops” flooding the comments section standing up for residents and calling out these Bad cops publicly?”

National Unrest Sharpens CT’s Focus on Police Community Trust

Interim Chief of Hartford Police Jason Thody released a statement saying, “Public trust, faith, and police legitimacy are essential requirements to be an effective police officer. Making comments that tend to diminish officer-credibility, erode public truck (sic), and bring discredit to the Department or to the officer can lead to an inability to police in the City.”

Thody also added, “Officers should be mindful that, while the Department supports legitimate expressions of free speech, such expressions are not without restrictions.”

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin also responded to those posts saying in part, “The vast, vast majority of our officers view the chance to serve our city as a privilege, and posts like this do a disservice to all the men and women of our department who work so hard to build and maintain relationships of trust, respect, and partnership.”

There has been much criticism of Hartford Police Department for its lack of diversity. Residents over the years have made several complaints about officers who abused thier powers. Internal investigations seem inadequate to address this malfesance evident in the city. And so residents were disappointed over what seems like entrenched racism, xenophobia and sexism.

NBC: Former Hartford Police Officer Arrested After Assaulting Two People

Since 2014, there has been abuse of power reported under former Police Chief James Rovella. Rovella resigned on February 15, 2018 amidst accusations of an alleged cover up of grand larceny charges and theft of services against political operatives, including several police officers, Rovella moonlighted with during President Barack Obama and Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administrations and re-election campaigns.

The Hartford Guardian: Blumenthal, Bronin, Meet With Hartford Officials to Discuss Ways to Quiet Tensions, Police Brutality.

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Hartford Holds Public Hearing on Neighborhod Assistance Act


By Kindred Gaynor, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Katie Glass, the executive director of the Hartford Artisans Weaving Center, wants to create a safe environment for artists in an old building that was donated. So she plans to fix it up.

That’s why she applied for $143, 002 from the Connecticut Neighborhood Assistance Act. The organization hopes to do roofing and lighting updates.

“It is a 40-year-old building that requires renovations,” Glass said. “Our roof being fixed is critical because it means that people can keep coming to a safe environment.”

The organization, which enriches lives through hand weaving, is also asking for a new HVAC system because the one that is in place now is original to the building.

Glass was one of the 67 agencies that apply for the program. Only five of them showed up to the public hearing Monday night at city hall.

The NAA Tax Credit Program is designed to provide funding for municipal and tax exempt organizations by providing a corporation business tax credit for businesses that make cash contributions to these entities.

The Hartford City Council must take action on 67 eligible 2019 Neighborhood Assistance Act proposals no later then June 10.

The organizations will benefit from the Neighborhood Assistance Act because unlike loans, grants don’t have to be repaid. These grants are designed to help these organizations grow. The types of community programs that qualify for the NAA tax credit program include energy conservation, employment and training, child care services, neighborhood assistance, substance abuse, open space acquisition, crime prevention programs, and affordable housing development.

This year the caps on individuals are the same. There is a $150,000 cap for non-profit organizations for the amount that they can raise from donors that is covered by tax credit. There is also an $150,000 cap for each dollar on the amount they can donate in any one tax year.

 In previous years, the total amount of credits that were permitted state wide was $10 million dollars. Two years ago they cut that maximum in half to $5 million dollars state wide.

Joan Gurksi, director of grants, explained the process of the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services. “What the Connecticut DRS does after they receive all of the applications is they not only determine whether or not they agree with the programs but they also assign a limit of the amount that can be raised with tax credit.

There is a formula that is applied in order for DRS to generate the amount that each organization/agency is supposed to receive. There is some discretion during this process.”

Connecticut DRS lets the public know how much tax credit is allotted to each donor from each non-profit. The lists that Central Grants gets from Connecticut DRS will be posted on the Central Grant web page.

Adria Giordano, director of development for Chrysalis Center, explained why her company is requesting a $150,000 grant from the state. “We provide homes for homeless individuals, people who are on the brink of homelessness and those who suffer from mental health issues,” said Giordano.

The Chrysalis Center has a total of five sites in the state of Connecticut, one of those sites being for veterans. The organization recently received a grant to purchase the home for 21 homeless veterans. Giorando said, “The home that was purchased is a turn of a century building that would benefit immensely from renovations. It needs a lot of work to be energy efficient.” The organization wants to get the renovations done as soon as possible to improve the overall safety of the building.

Jennifer DeJong represented the Village for Families and Children. The organization is requesting a $150,000 grant for numerous upgrades to their facility. It has been brought to their attention that they are experiencing high levels of carbon monoxide.

They have been advised to replace the boilers that they currently have with high energy efficient stainless steel boilers. This organization works in collaboration with the Department of Children and Families and needs to refurbish their facility without any further delay.

Council President, Glendowlyn Thames, concluded the public hearing by telling each of the representatives that she doesn’t see any issues with their grant requests and they should expect to know if their grants were approved by Labor Day.

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Hartford Woman Facing Deportation Continues Fight to Stay in U.S., Court Grants Reprieve


Updated Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at 6:35 p.m.

By Christian Spencer, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Facing deportation, Wayzaro Walton is on a quest to stay with her family in Hartford.

Walton on Monday received a reprieve. A U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered a stay of deportation for her while the federal Board of Immigration Appeals considers her case. However, federal officials said Walton will remain in a detention facility in Massachusetts.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Walton, 34, is a convicted felon. So on a routine visit to check in with a private agency that works with ICE, officials arrested her on March 26 and transported her to detention.

According to ICE, the British-born immigrant was convicted of third-degree larceny and had several misdemeanor charges for shoplifting. After a judge in 2012 deemed Walton deportable, ICE moved in.

Advocates for Walton said ICE officials made the wrong move. That’s because Walton was pardoned for her past crimes on January 15. And according to a pardon waiver clause, an immigration statue, if she had a full pardon, her past conviction should no longer be used against her as they were used in her 2012 immigration case.

And there are other factors at play, said Erin O’Neil Baker, Walton’s attorney.

“We’ve been trying to reopen that case about her deportation, arguing that her crimes are not deportable crimes,” Baker said.

Walton’s is one of hundreds of individuals in Connecticut who have been detained by ICE officials. Since 2017, 436 people in Connecticut have been detained, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nationally, the fiscal year of 2018 was considered a successful year that aligned with President Donald Trump’s agenda for stricter border control and deportation of undocumented or unlawful immigrants, according to  ICE and Enforcement and Removal Operations. There were 158,581 arrests in 2018, the greatest number of arrests over the last two fiscal years, according to an ERO report.

Since January 2017 when Trump issued his executive order to “enhance public safety,” detention facility bookings nationwide have increased more than 22 percent.

In 2017, there were 4,019 immigration cases pending in Hartford, according to the U.S. Department of Justice report.

Wayzaro Walton’s wife, Tamika Ferguson, wipes away tears after a press conference on Tuesday with Attorney General William Tong in Hartford. Photo: Ann-Marie Adams

Walton Detained

Walton is a legal resident, who is married to an American citizen, Tamika Ferguson. They both have a 15-year-old daughter.  Nevertheless, ICE arrested Walton the night before her state pardon for felony larceny and other misdemeanors became effective.

Since Walton’s arrest, her wife has been talking to her by phone every day.

“She’s just ready to come home. She misses her daughter,” Ferguson said after wiping away tears in the aftermath of a press conference on Tuesday. “She’s just ready to be home.”

Last month, supporters rallied before the federal building in Hartford to help reunite Walton with her family. Consequently, they started a MoveOn.org petition to help keep Walton in Hartford with her family.

Hartford Deportation Defense’s community organizer Constanza Segovia said Walton’s pardon should have prevented her from being detained.

“ICE refuses to accept [Walton’s pardon]. And it’s not recognizing the power of pardon in Connecticut because of the process,” Segovia said.

Legal Question

At issue is a legal question that involves the state’s sovereignty. That’s why Attorney General William Tong has intervened. He recently filed an amicus brief with the Second Circuit Court arguing that the parole board should be viewed as a part of the state’s executive branch. And ICE should have recognized the pardon.

“We needed to step in to make clear that when we pardon someone, they are cleared. It should be recognized. ” Tong said. “The federal government needs to respect the sovereignty of Connecticut.”

The pardon process in Connecticut is different than other states in which a governor grants pardon. In Connecticut, a Parole Board approves pardons. Last month, Gov. Ned Lamont wrote to the Department of Homeland Security asking for Walton’s pardon to be recognized.

“I’m grateful to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for recognizing the gravity of Wayzaro’s case and granting her a temporary stay of deportation. But this fight is far from over. We need to fight for permanent relief for Wayzaro,” Tong said. “This is another example of how the Trump Administration has separated children from their parents, and it doesn’t just happen at the border.”

Tong said he visited the border. And the country needs to have an honest discussion about immigration.

“The separation of children from their parents is not just happening at the border,” Tong said. “It’s happening here in Connecticut.”

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Eddie Perez Announces Bid for Mayor, Asks for A Second Chance


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD –– Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez is asking for a second chance to lead the city.

Flanked by an energetic group of supporters at Arch Street Tavern on Thursday, Perez, 61, made his official announcement to run for mayor.

“It’s time for a change in city hall,” said Perez, a Democrat. “We need leadership that cares about the struggles in our neighborhoods. We need leadership to act and improve the lives of all our residents.”

Perez is hoping to follow Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who was convicted on corruption charges, served time, ran for office and won. Ganim was in prison for seven years for extorting city contractors. In 2015, he was reelected mayor.

Like Ganim, Perez was charged with corruption. The state tried Perez on five felonies for taking about $40,000 in kitchen and bathroom improvements from a Hartford developer, Carlos Costa. Costa was a city contractor on a Park Street development project.

But unlike Ganim, Perez did not serve prison time. His conviction was overturned by the Appellate Court in 2013 and upheld by the Connecticut Supreme Court in 2016. Perez pleaded guilty to taking a bribe and attempted first degree larceny by extortion in 2017 after the state moved to retry him. Since then, the state has revoked his pension.

Eddie Perez talks to reporters after he announced his bid for mayor of Hartford
Photo: Ann-Marie Adams

Perez will join a crowded field of candidates vying for the city’s top job. State Rep. Brandon McGee, Hartford Board of Education Chairman Craig Stallings, businessmen Stan McCauley and Aaron Lewis have all registered to run for mayor. And the incumbent mayor, Luke Bronin, launched his re-election campaign in January. All are Democrats.

In a 30-minute speech, Perez took his audience on a journey back to 1969 when he first arrived in North Hartford from Puerto Rico. He began as a Vista volunteer and founded ONE CHANE in North Hartford. He continued to work as a community organizer in the south end of Hartford before he became president of Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance.

He ran for mayor in 2001 and was elected the first Hispanic mayor in New England.

In 2010, he resigned when he was charged with corruption.

“I let many people down and for that I’m sorry,” Perez said. “The people of Hartford have every right to hold me accountable. I ask for your forgiveness. I ask the city to give me a second chance.”

Perez’s now works as a transportation coordinator for Capitol Region Education Council.

Former City Council member Cynthia Jennings was among the cheering crowd supporting Perez’s bid for a second chance. The crowd that packed the downtown tavern was ecstatic, shouting: “Yes, we can,” and “Si se puede.”

Jennings said she was there to support Perez because “Eddie works on the assumption that we’re all one family and that’s how the city is going to come together.”

Perez said money will be a factor. He already knows he will face Bronin, who is “probably getting money from outside the city.”

The primary election is Sept. 10 and the general election is Nov. 5.

There are 69,531 total registered voters in Hartford.

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Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez to Announce Decison on Mayoral Bid


HARTFORD — Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez is expected to announce his bid for mayor on Thursday.

Perez, 61, was mayor from 2001 through 2010.

However, Perez resigned in 2010 after being charged and convicted for taking about $40,000 in kitchen and bathroom improvements from Hartford developer, Carlos Costa. Costa was a city contractor on a Park Street development project.

Perez’s conviction was overturned by the Appellate Court in 2013 and upheld by the Connecticut Supreme Court in 2016. However, Perez pleaded guilty to taking a bribe and attempted first-degree larceny by extortion in 2017 after the state moved to retry him.

Perez was the first Hispanic to become mayor.

He was also the first strong mayor after the city’s charter moved from having a town manager and a weak mayor form of government.

The announcement will be at Arch Street Tavern at 5 p.m.

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Connecticut Must Support Community Nonprofits


By Gian-Carl Casa

Connecticut’s community nonprofits are important contributors to our quality of life and the state needs to support them with adequate funding.

Gian-Carl Casa

Community nonprofits do many things for people who live and work in our state, things like providing substance-abuse treatment, caring for troubled kids, helping people with disabilities, heating homes and bringing arts and cultural programs to communities across the state.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposed budget largely recognizes the role played by community nonprofits in delivering vital services to the people of Connecticut. Despite a difficult budget year, the governor would maintain funding levels for most of the programs operated by nonprofits that serve our residents.

It’s a good starting point and we thank him for that. But there is more work to be done to make sure that payments to nonprofits cover the cost of the services they provide — because in many cases they simply don’t.

Years of tough budgets included many cuts to nonprofits even as demand increased. A 2015 study of rates for behavioral health services showed an annual loss for the top ten procedures (by volume) was more than $27 million for approximately 250,000 service hours. State grants for mental health and substance abuse have been reduced by 17 percent Before the legislature approved targeted wage increases last year, nonprofits that provide services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities hadn’t had a rate increase since 2007.

Compare that with the devastating increase in deaths from opioid abuse and the 2,000-person waiting list for services from the Department of Developmental Services.

It’s been said that for many years community nonprofits have been on the receiving end of cuts because they are run by dedicated people who will provide their services regardless. While it’s true that nonprofits do their best to raise funds from donations and diversify their offerings the days of “providing their services anyway” are ending. We hear frequently about programs that have been curtailed or closed – for example, the closing of group homes for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities or reduced hours for programs that help youth with trauma in their backgrounds. It is system approaching its breaking point.

The state should treat the essential services provided by community nonprofits as if they are fixed costs in the state budget – and off the table for further cuts.

One way to maximize limited state funding is by shifting more expensive state-operated programs into the community and re-investing the savings into the service delivery system. Community nonprofits can reduce state costs and meet the demand for services our residents need in a wide variety of areas.

Community nonprofits do the hard work so government doesn’t have to. The governor’s budget proposal is a good start and should be seen by legislators as the basis for making up some of the lost ground caused by a state funding system that hasn’t kept pace with the need.

The people of Connecticut who need or use services provided by nonprofits will thank them.

Gian-Carl Casa is President & CEO of the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance.

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It May be Bumpy, But Lamont Sees ‘a path forward’


By Mark Pazniokas, ctmirror.org

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont cast his first budget proposal Wednesday as “a path forward,” a map for a wealthy state struggling to wriggle free of a crushing pension debt amassed over decades, end crippling cycles of deficits and spark economic growth.

In a televised, 35-minute speech to the General Assembly, Lamont politely challenged lawmakers to suggest improvements if they don’t like his approach, pleading for “a different type of politics.” But at least for now, the new governor drew few hard lines beyond which he would not cross, all but inviting a robust debate. 

“Politics in Washington is a dysfunctional mess. Let’s show that here in Connecticut, we can work together on an honest budget, on time, one that gets our state moving again,” Lamont said. “When we disagree, don’t go to a microphone. Come to my office. My door is always open. Let’s get it done.”

The plea prompted an extended standing ovation from both sides of the aisle.

But other applause lines — promises of a higher minimum wage, a paid family and medical leave program, a pledge to preserve collective bargaining for state employees — only resonated among the majority Democrats. 

“I think it is a responsible budget that meets our needs. We are facing a deficit of about $1.5 billion in the next year and more than that in the year after that,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, D-New Haven. “We need some additional revenues. We also need to make sure we have an economic development plan that keeps the state moving forward and promotes job development. I think that’s a key.”

Republican leaders, however, responded coolly after the speech to the governor’s ideas for raising new revenue.

“Well, clearly Governor Lamont has an interest in fixing the state,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “I think unfortunately the way he’s trying to do it now is only hurting Main Street America. The middle class is being hurt by far the most in this. I believe in a path forward for Connecticut as the governor mentioned, but this is not the path.”

Lamont, 65, a Democrat and Greenwich businessman, is only Connecticut’s second governor since Chester Bowles, who was elected in 1948, without experience as a legislator in either Hartford or Washington. The other was his predecessor, Dannel P. Malloy, who was mayor of Stamford for 14 years.

Since taking office on Jan. 9, Lamont has invited a steady procession of legislators and other stakeholders, including the state-employee unions that contributed to his victory, to the Executive Residence, listening more than talking.

“Politics in Washington is a dysfunctional mess. Let’s show that here in Connecticut, we can work together on an honest budget, on time, one that gets our state moving again.”

Gov. Ned Lamont

On Wednesday, it was Lamont’s turn to speak.

He was not quite as relaxed as during his inaugural on Jan. 9, when he displayed a goofy charm, offering commentary and asides on his own speech as he delivered it. There were no taxes on the table then, no tolls, no hard requests. But he occasionally ad libbed, playing off the lawmakers’ applause —or their silence.

His promise to save nearly $600 million a year by curtailing borrowing and putting the state on a “debt diet” drew predictable applause.

“Now, I’ve talked to a lot of you,” he said. “I know you agree in principle, but then you generally have ‘one more special project that’s in the queue in my district.’ So be forewarned — if it is not tied to economic or workforce development, or cost-saving shared services, Connecticut is on a debt diet – and I am going to make sure we stick to that plan.”

He raised his voice, punching what was intended to be an applause line.

Lawmakers offered only a stony silence.

Lamont smiled.

“Crickets,” he said.

That prompted laughter — and applause.

If Lamont faces resistance from lawmakers about closing the bonding favor bank, he is looking at trench warfare over his call to end sales-tax exemptions for most everything but groceries and prescription medications. He noted he is seeking no raises in the rates for income or sales taxes, but said Connecticut needs to modernize its sales tax structure.

“Our current sales tax is designed for a Sears Roebuck economy driven by over-the-counter sales. Today we live in an Amazon economy, which is driven by e-commerce, digital downloads, consumer services,” he said. “So my sales tax reform would broaden the base so that digital goods are treated equally and more significantly that we are capturing a growing segment of the economy.”

He suggested there is no rhyme or reason to the current exemptions. Haircuts are exempt, not manicures. Netflix is exempt, not movie tickets. Lamont insisted he knows the size of the fight he is inviting, that he has been warned off by legislative leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers.

“Believe me, I’ve been forewarned by all of you —there was bipartisan consensus on this — that every tax expenditure has a strong lobby behind it and the pushback will be ferocious,” Lamont said.

The new governor promised to push back.

For the first time since announcing Saturday he would propose options for electronic tolling on all motor vehicles — not just trucks, as he promised during his campaign — Lamont explained his rationale to a live audience.

The governor said his lawyers convinced him that trucks-only tolling would survive judicial scrutiny only if the tolls were collected on specific bridges to pay for their reconstruction. He promised Connecticut car drivers would get discounted rates, as other states provide to their motorists.

Democrats applauded.

“By the way, it is estimated that over 40 percent of tolling revenue would come from out of state. As we foot the bill when we travel through their neighboring states, it’s time for out-of-state drivers to help foot the bill for fixing our roads and bridges,” he said.

Republicans, who see tolls as a wedge issue for 2020, did not.

Lamont cast tolling as part of a larger plan to grow the economy,  saying there is little chance of extended growth without modern transportation infrastructure, and there is no way of modernizing infrastructure without tolls.

Tolls would allow Connecticut to speed rail service from Hartford through New Haven and Stamford to New York City and add more frequent service to Waterbury and New London, he said. They also would help his economic-development team when companies ask about gridlock.

“Rather than nervously looking down at our shoes or checking our watch, our economic development team will now be able to answer, ‘I’m glad you asked me that,’ ” he said.

“I believe in a path forward for Connecticut as the governor mentioned, but this is not the path.”

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby

Lamont faces structural deficits, as did his predecessor, but the immediate task is not as daunting as the $3.7 billion shortfall that greeted Malloy. In some ways, however, Lamont faces a more difficult political task.

Eight years ago, Democrats working with their first Democratic governor in two decades readily yielded to Malloy on difficult revenue questions, such as the $1.8 billion tax increase Malloy proposed in his first budget. The novelty of working with a Democratic governor is long gone — as Malloy discovered in his final two years in office, when legislators shut him out of budget talks.

Lamont needs to find his own path forward, as well as a way to coax lawmakers to join him on the trip. That is a work in progress.

A key talking point Wednesday was Lamont’s intention to break the cycle of deficits, a tempting prospect for lawmakers exhausted by the constant struggle to balance budgets, ignoring the future while paying off debts from the past.

“I will not allow this budget to be another scene from Groundhog Day, where I come to you year-after-year, hat-in-hand, lamenting the fact that we still haven’t addressed our structural deficits,” Lamont said. “Fixed costs inherited from the past consume nearly a third of Connecticut’s budget – much more than our peers. This hurts our ability to make investments in our future.”

He said he can offer a solution, but only if he is backed by lawmakers, selling his plan to business and labor, mayors and selectmen, town councils and boards of education. 

Everyone is going to have to sacrifice — take a haircut, as debtors tell creditors when there is not enough money to pay everyone.  And that includes paying the sales tax on every haircut.

Featured Photo Credit: Connecticut Public Radio

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United Way to Host Legislative Forum on Financial Hardship


HARTFORD — The Connecticut United Way on Feb. 25 will host a legislative forum in Hartford about the “true scope of financial hardship” and how working families can achieve financial security.

The forum will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Room 2E at the Legislative Office Building, 300 Capitol Ave. in Hartford.

The forum comes after a 2018 report on the increase in the number of Asset Limited Income constrained Employed, or ALICE households. These families in the state included those who despite working hard, live paycheck to paycheck and are unable to afford life’s most basic necessities such as housing, food, child care, transportation, technology and healthcare.

About 40 percent of Connecticut households are unable to make ends meet. They are considered ALICE households. Many ALICE households are one emergency away from a financial crisis impacting their ability to feed their family, heat their home, maintain their housing and ensure their medical care, organizers said.

The other sponsors to this event are the Commission on Women, Children and Seniors and the Commission on Equity and Opportunity.

For more information and to register click here.

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Legislative Caucus Urges Residents to Participate in Forum


HARTFORD — The Black and Puerto Rican Caucus is urging Greater Hartford residents to participate in a public forum to address general issues facing thier communities.

The forum will be on Feb. 19 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

People who wish to speak must sign up the day of the forum from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the LOB lobby. Speakers will be allowed three minutes. Written testimony may be submitted in advance to Georgette.Cicero@cga.ct.gov .

“We need direct input from the public, advocates and other lawmakers about their concerns and ideas about issues affecting Black and Latino communities across Connecticut,” said Chair of the Caucus, Rep. Brandon McGee.

Participation is crucial, officials said.

“The caucus plays a very important role in shaping major policy initiatives, and I am looking forward to advocating and leading legislation that in the long run will benefit all people of Connecticut,” said Rep. Geraldo Reyes, (D-Waterbury) caucus vice chair.

More information may be obtained by sending an email toGeorgette.Cicero@cga.ct.gov  or by calling (860) 240-8323.

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