Meet the Candidates: 103rd House District

We asked Southington’s Connecticut General Assembly candidates the following questions:

1) What should the General Assembly do over the next two years to help the state’s economy?

2) Other than the economy, what are the top issues the General Assembly must address in the next two years? Why?

3) Southington faced unique challenges from the state during the last budget season with $5.1 million in mid-year holdbacks to Southington’s education funding and a $27 million package for municipal grants that left Southington off the list. What did you (or would you have done) to represent the town during this process?

Here are their answers:

Liz Linehan, Democrat

Liz Linehan

(Democrat, Incumbent)

1) We need a three-pronged approach. First, we need to make it easier to do business in Connecticut. We must continue to create business-friendly policies like the ones I supported as a member of the commerce committee, including the One-Stop Permitting Portal and Small Business Hotline, which makes it easier for businesses to get a shovel in the ground and navigate starting a business in Connecticut.

Second, I will continue to support manufacturing, which is expected to continue to grow throughout the next decade. Pratt and Whitney will be hiring 25,000 new jobs in the next seven years and will spur jobs in the supply chain. Many of those are in my district.

I created an annual event at the capitol which pairs students with manufacturers, which has already resulted in filling open jobs and full tuition reimbursement to college for students entering the program—with a guaranteed job offer out of school for those who successfully finish the program. I have also worked with the department of labor to promote apprenticeship programs to businesses in my district. In 2017, $2 million of federal apprenticeship funding was left unused, which could have been used to hire and train workers in the trades and manufacturing.

Third, I am working with conventional high schools to resurrect and grow shop programs, bring manufacturing in to the schools, change curriculum to include tech to go towards a student’s GPA, and educate parents about the high paying careers in manufacturing without the huge college debt.

2) The economy, state budget, and state affordability continue to be the top issues, but it is correct to say that as your state representative it is important that I tackle at all the issues we face. The health and safety of our residents is a priority.

This past session, I co-authored and passed legislation which ensures your healthcare will cover prescription medications, hospital visits, mental healthcare, drug rehabilitation and more, regardless of what happens on the federal level. To combat the opioid crisis, I co-introduced and passed a bill to strengthen the prescription monitoring program in an effort to stop doctor shopping and forged prescriptions.

Additionally, I worked with the regional action councils to train teachers and administrators in our schools in the adolescent S-BIRT certification program, which trains school employees to recognize drug abuse, intervene and refer a student to treatment. This is particularly important so that kids can reach out to the adult of their choosing, without being referred to a guidance counselor, and therefore not breaking that trusted bond we have with our kids.

Finally, I authored a bill to protect kids from predators after a Southington bus driver was arrested for molesting a child over a period of eight years. This legislation ensures that the school system and parents are always notified of any such arrest, even if it didn’t occur during work. It passed the house, but ran out of time to be called in the senate.

I will raise this legislation again in 2019, and will continue my efforts to protect residents (especially children), and continue to make healthcare a priority.

3) The mid-year holdbacks were extreme, and particularly detrimental to Southington—but we overturned the governor’s holdbacks, returning every dollar in the bipartisan budget, which I supported. However, that wasn’t enough, so I co-sponsored legislation to prohibit any governor from ever making mid-year cuts to education again.

The bill passed but was vetoed by the governor. The House overturned the veto, but the senate did not vote on it. I will be co-sponsoring this legislation again in 2019.

Before the holdbacks, Gov. Dannell Malloy’s 2017 proposed budget cut $3 million from Southington, and I was vocal in my opposition, publicly testifying against his cuts, calling it a “direct assault on the middle class”. That proposed budget was defeated, as well.

Additionally, Southington was poised to lose $58 million in reimbursement for combined sewer projects. I strongly opposed this cut and was successful in defeating the measure—saving an extraordinary amount of money for the town, which would otherwise be passed on to residents.

If you factor in the $5.1 million returned to Southington in the budget, that totals $4,044 in savings per Southington household. This savings undoubtedly contributed to your Town Council passing a zero-increase budget and is a direct savings for each taxpayer.

I will continue to fight for every Southington resident, and be a strong voice for the middle class.

Diane Pagano, Republican

Diane Pagano

(Republican, Challenger)

1) The General Assembly should work together to implement a zero-based budget. Many of us already use something like this in their own households. We look at our monthly anticipated income, and apply it to our monthly bills. Even though we try our best to budget income, sometimes expenses exceed our revenue, and in that case we have to cut back the next month or do without.

Hartford needs to stop doing what it has always done, and work with an accounting philosophy that makes sense. Each department will start with $0 and add each expense line item that is necessary. This will have an immediate impact on the budget. When revenue is received, it is deposited into the corresponding fund.

This money will be used for what it is intended for, not to be “banked” and then swept into a different accounts to be used for something not originally intended. Like in our homes and businesses, a zero based budgeting process will afford the state government and taxpayers more accountability, and more reliability.

2) Some of the top issues the General Assembly must continue to address are those surrounding our veterans, our seniors and the disabled.

Our veterans have served our country selflessly, and we have the responsibility to provide them with the tools and resources they need to maintain a healthy and productive lifestyle.

The Medicare savings program is an important program for our seniors and disabled. During the last General Assembly session, the income thresholds were slated to go back to federal minimums, which would have been devastating for many families. Once the extent of the cuts was known, Republican legislators led the charge to have the income limits restored.

As an owner of a caregiving agency, I am aware of the importance to keep programs like this intact. While the program has been restored, the continued funding is in peril. The qualifications for the program has to be looked at, and assets should be considered in the application revenue as this program is to help the less fortunate (a goal I share) but not to sustain those with significant assets already.

3) My understanding is that Southington is one of the many towns in Connecticut that watched their budget closely and made every effort to spend frugally during the time of uncertainty, caused by the budget standoff in Hartford.

What should have been done is that before any bills were addressed, Hartford should have adopted a state budget. From there, towns like Southington would be able to plan for the future instead of having to resort to a crystal ball and hope.

That is not fair—not fair to the towns nor to the public at large. In the meantime, while Southington was being cut, the City of Hartford was receiving a $500 million bailout of its debt.

In my opinion, Hartford should have been allowed to file for bankruptcy. Why should Southington’s taxpayers have to foot the bill for irresponsible economic decisions in Hartford? They shouldn’t. If I were a representative at the time, I would not have sat on the sidelines like my opponent did and let this bailout happen. Leaders lead. I would have led the rally cry in opposition.

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