We reached out to the local candidates for the state senate and state house races via our editorial page and asked them three questions.
Here are the answers for Andrew Falvey, the Republican running for the open seat in Connecticut’s 103rd House district:
There has been a lot of discussion the past year about the economic situation in Connecticut. For the Democrats, since they hold the governor’s office and the General Assembly, what things have been done and are in the pipeline that have improved or will improve the situation and how would you push the efforts even further? And for the Republicans, what has been done incorrectly and if the Republicans take the majority in Hartford, what would you do to improve the state’s economic situation?
Unfortunately, very little is being done, or is in the pipeline to correct the problems that have been imposed on Connecticut by the one party government. What is needed is a change in leadership that will hold the Governor accountable for both the fiscal and economic problems we face today. When you impose two large tax increases and still come up $2 billion short, you need to admit the process does not work.
Republicans, myself included, believe you should not spend more than you have, and should not borrow more than you can pay back. Our first priorities are to reign in outsize bond packages, and review how the agencies and departments of the state government provide services, and at what cost.
Recently, two items were reported on the same day: that the state finished fiscal year 2016 $170 million short and added an additional $260 million of debt to the already overloaded budget. Anyone in a sixth grade math class can tell you that does not add up.
The past few months has seen discussion about property tax reform in Connecticut—with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities putting its weight behind reform. Do you think the state is in need of reform? Why do you feel that way and what can be done if change is needed?
The issue is not property tax reform; the issue is unfunded mandates by the state government that leave the communities saddled with costs they did not want, and have difficulty budgeting for, even in good years.
Municipalities are told by the state, “You must do this, and oh by the way, it is up to you to pay for it. And if you don’t future state aid is in jeopardy.” Local governments have no choice but to raise property taxes to pay the bill that was forced upon them by the state. Unfunded mandate reform is the first step in property tax relief.
The second part of this issue is that all municipalities set their own local tax rates. This leaves many in our relatively small state to feel they themselves are overburdened while neighboring towns are getting some sort of break because of a lower mill rate. Cities are burdened with additional services not normally seen in small towns and suburbs, along with often a larger percentage of tax exempt properties. These are often state owned buildings or colleges and other education institutions. PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) are designed to make up for these short falls. Unfortunately, these types of aid packages are easy to raid in order to fund other “pet” projects by legislators, leaving the municipality holding the bag.
The way to begin to solve this is to make Legislators act like grown-ups and keep their promises. PILOT and ECS (Education Cost Sharing) have been underfunded for years. There has also been talk of a “transportation lock box” to protect transportation funding. Legislators must act as responsible adults and keep funding and spending aligned with the specific program.
Using the general fund as a piggy bank to pay for whatever and everything that comes to the attention of a legislator is a process that must end. Only then will the concept of property tax “reform” be able to be addressed, because then municipalities will have a better handle on what they can expect as a local aid package and then plan their services and tax base accordingly.
Aside from the above questions, what do you see as the single biggest issue facing the state in the next two years and how would you like it addressed?
The budget. This needs to be addressed by looking at what the state spends on each and every service. Then the state can begin to determine what is a core service that must be provided by the state. This would include services to those who cannot care for themselves in a variety of areas.
Social Services includes mental and physical health services to those in need, nutrition programs, especially for children, aid for the disabled. Most of our drug and prison problems (and costs) can be attributable to mental health issues.
Public Safety must be kept at the top of the priority list. Our police and fire services, as well as other first responders, and prison staff keep us safe. We must take care of those who take care of us.
Public Education must receive adequate funding. The future of any society is built on a strong, well-educated populace.
After this, we must look closely at all other services to determine if it must be done by the state, or if it is better to outsource the work to qualified, competitive bidders while maintain oversight by the state. We must also consider that some or many services just simply belong in the private sector with no involvement by the state.