Legislators address borough business community
NAUGATUCK — Legislators delivered a message to local business leaders Tuesday morning: become more involved in their government.
State Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, encouraged those in attendance at the Naugatuck Chamber of Commerce’s annual Legislative Breakfast to come to the capitol and speak out for what they want from their government. She pointed out that other groups, which may be working towards ideas that would impact businesses, are already lobbying.
“They are there every minute of every day,” Hartley said. “It is more important than ever this year to be engaged.”
State representatives David Labriola, R-Oxford, and Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, echoed Hartley’s comments.
Labriola said other parties are lobbying for ideas that might not be in the best interest of the business community. He said businesses leaders need to speak and lobby in order to have their voices heard.
“We in the business community need to do the same. We need to get involved, play politics, and make sure legislators get elected who are like-minded because that’s how this democracy works,” Labriola said.
Rebimbas said businesses constantly face challenges from the government.
“One of the things businesses complain about … is the instability and every year having to challenge and face the same bad business proposals that are coming down the pipeline. That in and of itself is enough to make any business concerned that is in the state of Connecticut, let alone come to the state of Connecticut,” Rebimbas said.
The legislators also touched on Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget proposals for the 2016-17 spending plan, expressing praise and concern.
Malloy has proposed cutting $571 million from the adopted $20.4 billion budget and fundamental changes to how the state government budgets, including moving towards zero-based budgeting.
Labriola said Republicans applauded many of the measures that Malloy proposed.
“After five years of overtaxing and overspending he woke up as a fiscal conservative. We thought it was tremendous. He spoke right out of the Republican playbook,” Labriola said.
Malloy also proposed the legislature grant executive branch agencies more autonomy and authority to manage their budgets. A measure that drew concern from lawmakers Tuesday morning.
Most of Malloy’s budget savings come from a proposed 5.75 general budget cut. The cuts exclude certain areas, including Medicaid, education spending and entitlement programs.
Hartley explained that under Malloy’s plan legislators would only see the bottom-line number for budgets, not the line items, moving forward.
“Not that we need to know where the institution spends money on every paper clip, but you generally need to understand the programs and help prioritize. That’s the function of the legislature, not exclusively the executive,” Hartley said. “We, as a legislature, have no idea where they are going to accomplish this 5.75 percent [cut].”
Hartley said Republicans and Democrats alike do not support this method.
“What happens is that it is almost like a blank check to the governor’s office. ‘Just approve the bottom line and we will do the rest.’ These are equal branches of government, for one, and that’s abdicating our responsibility,” Hartley said.
Labriola said he would prefer that the entire legislature remains involved in the process.
“Part of the way he wants to implement it is he wants to take over all of the responsibilities that are normally the legislature’s problems. We do have separation of power and we shouldn’t just yield all the decision making to the governor and only the governor,” Labriola said.