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 Ryan Rogers, the Democrat challenger for Connecticut’s 16th senatorial 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?
First, the burden on taxpayers in our state is too high. This last budget did not see an increase in taxes, which is a start. But it is important that our budget is stable and sustainable so that our already overtaxed middle class is not continuing to shoulder the burden of budget deficits.
In order to create a sustainable budget going into the future, we need to make some structural changes to the budget, so that we are not overly reliant on volatile stock market swings.
We are seeing budget deficits year after year, and so it is crucial that our tax system reflects the 21st century economy. This means we must re-think the way we budget, adapt to the reality that our state’s economy is largely service based, and broaden our tax base in ways that don’t hurt people.
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?
In regard to property taxes, it is clear our cities and towns have become overly reliant on them as one of the only ways they have to raise revenue. We need a system that allows cities and towns to broaden their base of revenue so that they don’t look to fill every budget hole with an increase in taxes on homeowners.
It pains me any time I hear from our seniors and retirees that they may need to move in order to afford to live, largely due to the property tax in their town. People should be allowed to retire with dignity, and not feel forced to abandon the life they have worked so hard to create for themselves because of high property taxes.
The fact is homeowners are the lifeblood of our communities – we should be making it easier, not harder, to own a home in Connecticut. We need to take a hard look at costly and underfunded municipal mandates and give towns the flexibility they need to keep taxes low while still providing crucial services.
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?
One of the biggest issues we face is creating communities that can attract and retain young people. I’ve heard from so many businesses about their struggles to find talented and skilled workers. If we build thriving communities that can attract the talent that businesses need, and create an education system that trains students for the work of today, businesses will come to Connecticut.
But we also need to make sure that our young people and recent graduates have the means to live here. That means making college more affordable and debt-free, and ensuring that our property taxes are at a reasonable level so that young professionals can buy a home and raise a family.
We also need to pass legislation allowing for paid family and medical leave, which will allow for all businesses, small and large, to keep pace with the competitive job markets that the next generation of workers have created.