Local legislators present ominous forecast

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State Sen. Joan Hartley talk business at the legislative breakfast hosted by the Waterbury Chamber of Commerce Jan. 19.

WATERBURY – The eggs were not served sunny-side up at the legislative breakfast hosted by the Waterbury Regional Chamber Jan. 19.

The mood was pretty gloomy as state legislators addressed the area business community.

“This is really bad,” Rep. Sean Williams (R-Watertown) said. “It’s not getting much better.”

Bruce Angeloszek, owner of CT Electrical Services, described the two hour meeting, which focused mostly on the state’s budgetary issues, as non-motivational.

“I didn’t hear them say anything good about anybody, even their own kind,” he said.

Angeloszek said the state needs to start getting things done.

“We’re spinning our wheels with no traction,” he said.

The breakfast was very depressing, Angeloszek said. He fears the current economic problems will be passed on to the next generation.

State State Rep. Len Greene, Jr. discusses his committees at the legislative breakfast hosted by the Waterbury Chamber of Commerce Jan. 19.

While the chamber put forth their agenda at the breakfast, legislators mostly addressed the state’s $3.5 billion deficit, and expressed frustration that much of their work can’t begin until Gov. Dan Malloy presents his budget in February.

Among the legislators at the breakfast were Sen. Joan Hartley, (D-Naugatuck, Prospect), Rep. Leonard Greene, (R – Beacon Falls), and Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R-Naugatuck).

Hartley said it was time for the legislature to make difficult choices.

“This business is not for the feint of heart,” she said.

She said the system needs complete structural changes.

“It’s going to take some guts to do it,” she said.

Hartley brought up potential reductions in the Education Cost Sharing grant, but questioned whether cuts would force towns to raise taxes. She also talked about cuts in corrections and human services.

The philosophy in Hartford is that if a program isn’t working, Rebimbas said, throw more money at it. Lack of funding isn’t the problem for some programs, she said, suggesting they cut failing programs.

Members of the house and senate promised to do their best to reduce state spending without raising taxes on businesses.

Chairman of the Board of the Waterbury Regional Chamber Gary O’Connor, urged the legislators not to burden businesses with more mandates and taxes.

State Rep. Rosa Rebimbas talks about Connecticut's budget deficit at the legislative breakfast hosted by the Waterbury Chamber of Commerce Jan. 19.

Part of the chamber’s legislative agenda, included opposition to a mandate that employers provide paid sick leave to their employees.
“The state of Connecticut is busy at work making your lives more complicated,” said state Rep. Craig Miner (R-Bethlehem), who opposes the mandate.

Some legislators felt the legislature needs to take immediate action on the budget, and not wait.

“It’s kind of like the Titanic sinking and the band is still playing,” said Williams, suggesting that the legislature is ignoring Connecticut’s budgetary issues.

There is a relative lack of urgency in Harford, said state Sen. Joe Markley (R-Southington).

“For a long time we’ve known what the answers are but there hasn’t been the will to do anything about it,” state Rep. Arthur O’Neill (R-Bridgewater) said.

Williams had several ideas for cutting the budget, including ceasing state funding of political campaigns.

State Rep. Anthony D’Amelio (R-Waterbury) said it would not be possible to balance the budget without increasing taxes, but Markley pledged not to raise taxes.

“We are cutting our own throats if we continue to increase taxes,” Markley said.

State Rep. John Piscopo (R-Burlington) agreed with Williams on spending cuts. He suggested consolidating and privatization of state agencies as well as cutting agencies whose sole purpose is to keep tabs on other agencies.

Markley said the state budget has risen over the past few years without a corresponding increase in services. Although he hasn’t seen Malloy’s budget, he said the Republicans should draft an alternative budget.

Markley said they must balance the pressure to reduce the deficit while preserving help for the neediest. The government must remember the impact cuts will have on individuals, he said.

O’Connor said to a person, the legislators agreed that the state is facing unprecedented problems. He was encouraged that the representatives were receptive to addressing the state’s systemic problems, but the reality of the situation, laid out by legislators, was hard to ignore.

“It was very sobering,” O’Connor said.