Meet the Candidates: 81st 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:

John Fusco, Republican

John Fusco

(Republican, Incumbent)

1) The General Assembly, quite frankly, is currently helpless to do anything as a unified body to stimulate the economy. The impressions of the handprints worn into the wheel of the economic ship belong to the majority party who has set its course for decades. That likely translates into a large portion of the population believing the economy isn’t all that bad, and in some cases that it’s even good. That said there is much that needs to be undone before the long road to recovery can begin.

The existence of a healthy economy relies in part upon the ability of people to spend money. The state income tax alone drains over $8 billion per year from people’s pockets. The state can take it or the people can spend it, which one fuels a healthy economy? Removing those financial handcuffs is clearly the first hurdle, but again that would mean an end to identity politics. Fixed costs to the state have become unsustainable in the wake of it.

I offer as proof a new multi-billion dollar deficit on top of staggering, in fact crippling, unfunded pension liabilities that squeeze the life out of revenues, and the economic future of our state. Therein lays the next hurdle. The enormous fixed cost created in the past 30-plus years is an anchor our economy no longer has the steam to drag. We would be well advised to consider the direction of states that have reduced fixed costs and are enjoying economic growth and lower taxation, clearly many of our residents are.

Ironically we are blessed with location; what we need to provide are reasons for businesses and people to come and stay. Creating jobs is clearly a large piece of the economic puzzle. That can only come from a friendly business climate. We have far too many taxes, fees, mandates, restrictions, and regulations and the state is chronically running in a deficit. All good reasons to look away from Connecticut.

The mid-recession plan of offering large sums tax payer dollars to corporations hoping they would secure jobs didn’t succeed. Neither did bolstering mass transportation. We need to stop spending, cut taxes, and fixed costs, reduce state run program fraud, and administrative duplicity, and create an attractive business climate statutorily and logistically. That will build a foundation upon which a strong economy can grow.

2) The two most glaring problems, without question, are division and identity politics. These are the two most destructive forces at work in the legislature. All of our state’s endless and needless struggles are born of these two issues. The polarizing divide in our state’s government is unimaginable and irresponsible. How can we possibly succeed as a state if our legislative body works against itself, and doesn’t share the same goals?

The answer clearly is that it can’t. Connecticut is suffocating from the fall-out of single party rule, and the effects of identity politics. Legislators take an oath to serve the entire state not just certain segments, and it’s expected to be done in a bipartisan manner. I would like to believe that people elect state officials with the expectation that they will put forth their best thinking, their best efforts, not for just some but for the state as a whole. That expectation is not being met, and it comes at the expense of our fiscal, economic, and social future.

Our state is near the bottom of the good; economic growth, jobs and stability and near the top of the bad; taxes, costs and deficit. That is the undeniable result of division and identity politics. The time for change and a better Connecticut is long overdue, and that can only arise from teamwork not division. I am proud and honored to serve the residents of Southington, and I remain committed to the success of our state as a whole.

3) Gov. Dannell Malloy’s executive order budget in 2017 would have cut $10 million in municipal aid, almost all from education funding. I supported a passed budget in which I was insistent had no increase in taxes, and fully funded municipalities and education.

Malloy took it upon himself to veto these aspects of the budget, and I voted to override that veto. Over $3 million in education funding for Southington was cut and further financial misfortune for Southington was likely out of political spite for leadership.

To avoid actions like this, I voted for legislation that prevents future governors from cutting municipal aid mid-year.

Ryan Rogers, Democrat

Ryan Rogers

(Democrat, Challenger)

1) The main responsibility of our state legislature is to craft a balanced budget. It is incredibly important that this next budget avoids short-term solutions and institutes structural reforms that provide for a predictably, deficit-free budget for years to come. This will help to put the business community at ease by eliminating future uncertainty.

In addition, the state must make moves to lower the cost of living in order to ease the burden on our current residents and become more appealing for those on the outside looking in. One of my primary goals will be passing legislation that will create more competition on our healthcare exchange that will help to level out costs for all. Rising costs of health insurance are one of the largest burdens placed on individuals and families. I will work to ensure it is less of a struggle to afford healthcare coverage.

The state also must acknowledge the reality that our utility costs are among the highest in the nation, and steps must be taken to lessen the burden this places on homeowners and business owners alike. When you look down at your bill and see that your delivery charge is two to three times higher than your supply charge—something is wrong—and I plan to work within the legislature to help find solutions to this problem.

Connecticut is the ideal place to raise a family due to our education system, but unfortunately we have trouble keeping our kids here after they come of age. It is vital for the state to start investing more wisely in upping our appeal to young professionals by way of making it more affordable to live here, working with towns and cities to incentivize the types of development that are more practical and appealing, and enhancing our transportation system to bring an ease of accessibility and connectivity to our state that many are seeking.

2) I graduated Southington High School in 2003, and sadly, I have lost count of how many of my classmates have since passed away due to struggles with addiction. The main cause of this has been the devastating effects of opioid addiction. In many cases this begins with readily available prescriptions, leading to abuse, then fatal overdose.

Politicians have danced around this topic for years talking about many different approaches, and it boggles the mind why we don’t simply attack the problem at the source, which is production and distribution to our residents.

I will do all in my power to see to it that these types of prescriptions (fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone and others) which are derived from the same plant as heroin, are used only in extreme cases and that doctors use other evidence-based approaches to treating and managing pain.

In addition, we must work towards expanding access to medication assisted treatment for those in need of help. The federal government as of late has shown a willingness to support this option and we should take full advantage while we can.

We have a heroin epidemic in our state and Connecticut now ranks in the top 10 of states with the highest rates of fatal opioid overdoses. It’s time to start combating it with more urgency and consider every tool at our disposal to end it.

3) Southington is known statewide for its quality education system—award-winning athletics, music program, and robotics. Our quality of life in town comes from generations choosing to raise families here and staying here to enjoy grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and from new families choosing to join our community. Cuts to municipal aid and Education Cost Share would be devastating to the community that we have built.

I will advocate strongly in the legislature for a long-term solution to funding our cities and towns and their schools so that we can avoid crises like the mid-year holdbacks. I will also work across the aisle and with the governor’s office to ensure that Southington’s voice is part of the conversation on distributing resources.

 

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