Image

Archive for Uncategorized

Consider This…

Consider that Connecticut – sited between the financial powerhouses of New York and Boston – was once an economic leader, but, sadly, our days of prominence have been followed by decades of decline. Why?

Consider that Connecticut is still a leader in several categories, but mostly the kind one tries to avoid. Residents and business entities are being taxed out of existence—gift tax, occupational tax, gross receipts tax, alternative minimum tax, a tax on Social Security benefits, and an estate tax, just to name a few. According to a recent Yankee Institute study, of Connecticut’s 360 revenue sources, the bottom 200 brings in only $29.6 million dollars. Governor Malloy’s two-year, $40.6 billion budget proposal is swarming with nuisance levies where the negative impact on the state supersedes any financial benefit.

Consider that Connecticut has an estate tax with a very low threshold of $2 million dollars. It is difficult to retire comfortably when residents are taxed beyond their working years. With a high cost of living and soaring healthcare rates, senior citizens suffer disproportionally from our taxes. If that weren’t bad enough, the estate tax has drawn even more scorn. The adage “You cannot afford to die in Connecticut” has become an accepted truth.

Consider that Connecticut has an estate tax with a very low threshold of $2 million dollars. The Federal threshold is currently $5.45 million dollars and is slated to go up to just under $6 million later this year. Even New Jersey is phasing out their estate tax (2018). It is no surprise that accountants have been telling clients for years that Connecticut is not only a bad place in which to retire, but also a bad place in which to die. The statistics showing Connecticut at the wrong end of the spectrum when it comes to out migration should be a clarion call to all that we must reverse course now and stop repeating mistakes with the same old “tax-and-spend” philosophy that brought us to this situation in the first place.

Consider that Connecticut, despite our efforts to thwart wasteful spending and tax hikes, is still indebted to our own pension fund. We create new revenue sources to stop the bleeding, but get sidetracked by new spending opportunities – a cycle that requires immediate intervention. We have heard your voices and understand that no matter how hard you work, you are still bombarded by rising costs and rising taxes, and you are finding it difficult to keep up.

The Greenwich Delegation has considered these concerns and has introduced H.B. 5631, An Act Increasing the Threshold for Imposition of the Estate Tax, which would bring Connecticut’s estate tax threshold in line with the Federal level. Perhaps this will also lead to a reduction in the income tax down the road, which could be offset be revisiting our pension crisis and finding ways to reduce the state’s financial obligation in the future.

Now, Consider that Connecticut, a state once championed for its prestigious public schools, international companies and high standard of living now finds itself being abandoned by employers, ignored by college graduates and reconsidered by lifelong residents. When will the last of our businesses uproot for tax-friendly alternatives? What will become of our home when the aging population that remains can no longer afford to live here? Who will be left to turn the state around? And, at that point, who will be left to care?

Consider that, Connecticut… and consider that we can do something about it, but it must be done soon. This is our Connecticut moment.

GREENWICH DELEGATION TOURS BLUE SKY STUDIOS

GREENWICHState Representatives Livvy Floren (R-149), Mike Bocchino (R-150), and Fred Camillo (R-151) toured Blue Sky Studios in Greenwich on Monday, January 23rd with Chief Operating Officer Brian Keane and other members of the Blue Sky team.

“In 2007, I voted in favor of a Digital Animation Production Tax Credit program, which encouraged Blue Sky Studios to move from New York to Greenwich, CT in 2008,” said Rep. Floren. “I was privileged to partake in that process and I am grateful for the investment they have made in Connecticut.”

The Digital Animation Production Tax Credit program offers tax credits to companies that follow certain guidelines. Eligible companies must employ at least 200 full-time employees, perform digital animation production, and maintain their studio facilities all within the State of Connecticut. Blue Sky Studios maintains a 150,000 square foot studio and employs 500 people in Greenwich.

“I was impressed with the overall presentation of the facility and it was clear that all team members took great pride in their work,” said Rep. Bocchino. “This was not your average work environment and I enjoyed seeing how the various departments designed their workspaces to reflect their function in the company. This is the ‘thinking outside-the-box’ that Connecticut needs.”

The production company is well known around the world for developing animated films such as Ice Age, The Peanuts Movie and Rio. Blue Sky employs skilled workers in a variety of positions with career opportunities for individuals with different backgrounds. In addition to employing artists, Blue Sky also employs engineers, programmers, human resources and accounting professionals, among other positions.

“This is the type of innovation we want in Connecticut because it makes our economy diverse,” said Rep. Camillo. “I am impressed with Blue Sky Studios’ creativity, imagination and business ingenuity, and I will continue to advocate on their behalf in Hartford so that they may continue to succeed here.”

Blue Sky Studios is set to release Ferdinand on December 22nd and continues to work on several other films in development.

Meet the Leaders with Rep. Livvy Floren: Opening Day of the 2017 Session

Greenwich Free Press: Huge Thanks to Dalio Foundation at Re-Dedication of Anne M. Kristoff Playground

As the ribbon was cut, dozens of children dashed onto the slides and ladders as residents looked on. - Greenwich Free Press

Thank you to the Greenwich Free Press for posting this great article about the Anne M. Kristoff playground rededication!

https://greenwichfreepress.com/around-town/giving/photos-video-huge-thanks-to-dalio-foundation-at-re-dedication-of-anne-m-kristoff-playground-76471/

Tuesday was Election Day in Greenwich, which meant no school. It was also the perfect fall day for the re-dedication of the Anne M. Kristoff playground.

“Look at this great view we have of Byram Harbor! Today’s a beautiful fall day. How could it be any better than this?” exclaimed Joe Siciliano, the Director of Parks & Recreation for Greenwich, who said the new playground was part of a larger gift from the Dalio Foundation for the park overall.

Siciliano said that in the past twelve months walking paths have been renewed, tree work has been done, plantings have been installed and masonry work has been completed.

Siciliano said that when he first met with Barbara Dalio and walked through Bruce Park, which has also benefited from improvements through the Dalio Foundation, she said wanted people to be seen outdoors using and enjoying the park environment.

Suni Unger of Serendipity has partnered with the Parks & Rec Dept on a public private partnership. Siciliano said Serendipity will donate part of the proceeds of the Wine & Food Festival toward the park improvements and park maintenance.

Peter Tesei, who described the Anne M. Kristoff as a “signature playground” that will served many generations of children in town, led dozens of children in a chorus of thank you to Mrs. Dalio.

“We grew up here, and lived in a 5-family house right down the street on North Water Street,” said Jessica Kristoff. “It’s a true effort of love that my aunt did all these wonderful things. It’s wonderful she did all these things and the park looks better than it’s ever looked.”

“It’s just nice for people to remember,” said Mrs. Kristoff’s daughter, also named Anne. “A lot of people are dying off who remember what Greenwich was like. It’s nice people remember. It was a lot different.”

“She was a community organizer,” Anne said of her mother. “She was like, ‘If I see something I don’t like, I’m going to fix it.’”

Greenwich and Stamford Public Schools: The Need for Capitol Capital

OPINION BY REP. LIVVY FLOREN

The recent ruling by a judge on the State Superior Court bench, and the subsequent appeal to the State Supreme Court have served to up the wattage of the bright white light that has been shining for years on the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. The adage:  “Doing nothing is not an option … because you never know when you’re done” certainly applies to the many attempts that have been made – and have failed — to improve the equity of public education.

What are we doing in the General assembly to reach the goal of quality education for all of our Connecticut students? For starters, we are trying very hard to make sure that all 169 cities and towns get a fair share of education aid. There should be a more equitable distribution, and special education mandates should be paid for by the convening authority, usually the federal government. We should be crafting a new funding mechanism that takes into consideration property taxes and success rates – rewarding academically achieving schools and returning a fair percentage of money to the districts where taxes were collected.

With that said, merely throwing money at educational problems is not the solution. Accountability is necessary, as is a culture of parental involvement in the learning process. Creativity is needed to address teacher certification, retirement, housing and transportation. We also need to confront the complex societal problems that our public schools reflect, exemplifying yet another situation where creative solutions must triumph over short-term financial band aids.

Legislators are all in agreement – Republicans and Democrats from urban, suburban and rural districts – that an ecumenical, bipartisan effort must be made to rectify an egregiously unfair ECS formula.

However, as Woody Allen says, “The lion and the lamb may lie down together, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.”

Reps. Floren, Klarides and Wood; Senator Frantz to be Honored For Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence

State Representatives Themis Klarides (R-114), Livvy Floren (R-149) and Terrie Wood (R-141), and State Senator Scott Frantz (R-36) have been selected to receive a First 100 Plus Award for their commitment and dedication to helping victims of domestic violence.

Connecticut’s First 100 Plus – presented by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) – recognizes male and female leaders who work to improve the lives of domestic violence victims across the state. The veteran legislators’ are being honored for their continued commitment to common sense legislation that enhances victim protections and punishes violators.

“I am honored to receive this award, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge and thank the men and women from the Coalition Against Domestic Violence who work diligently to help those in need, especially those who have been victims of domestic violence in our state,” Rep. Floren said. “The work we do in the legislature supports their mission and helps strengthen their goal to end domestic violence in Connecticut and nationwide.”

During the 2016 legislative session, Rep. Floren co-sponsored An Act Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence (PA 16-34) which strengthens existing domestic violence  law by shortening the time between when a restraining order is filed and when an involved party must surrender their firearms, and mandates court hearings within 7 days (previous law allowed 14 days) of issuance of an ex parte restraining order. Previously, Rep. Floren was successful in obtaining a $250,000 STEAP grant to benefit the Greenwich YMCA’s domestic violence center.

The 6th Annual Breakfast & Awards Ceremony will be help on Friday, November 4, 2016 from 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. at the Hartford Marriott Downtown located at 200 Columbus Boulevard, Hartford. According to the CCADV website, money raised through the First 100 Plus Breakfast & Awards Ceremony supports public awareness efforts not traditionally supported by government grants.

Connecticut  has averaged 14 intimate partner homicides annually over the past decade with few of those victims ever having availed themselves of services prior to their deaths.

To view the First 100 Plus Class of 2016, please click: http://www.ctcadv.org/files/3714/7438/6629/First_100_Plus_2016_honorees.pdf

###

OPINION: Special Session Could Have Helped More Businesses

Last week, the legislature was called into special session to consider a package of tax incentives valued at $220 million to keep Sikorsky Aircraft in the state and producing world class helicopters in their Stratford facility.  We – the Greenwich delegation – voted yes on the bill because we felt supporting a large Connecticut manufacturer, its employees and the myriad businesses that supply parts are valuable to the state’s overall economy and health.

Unfortunately, and despite repeated requests by both House and Senate Republican leadership, the scope of the special session was narrowed to only include the Sikorsky deal. Our proposal attempted expansion of the session to consider legislation that would directly impact other businesses and manufacturers across our state.

We wanted to debate additional initiatives:

  • Require legislative approval of state employee contracts
  • Prohibit the state from participating in the mileage tax pilot program or implementing a state mileage tax
  • Prohibit increasing rail and bus fares without legislative approval
  • Implement pension reforms (contained in Senate Bill 1301 from the 2011 regular session), including prohibiting new longevity payments and eliminating both overtime and longevity payments from pension calculations
  • Create a bipartisan State Bond Cap Commission, require the commission to present recommendations for an annual cap on state bond allocations before February 28, 2017, and require a vote during the 2017 regular session
  • Create a Transportation Oversight Board to ensure input and accountability for state-wide transportation planning and funding

To say it is disappointing when open dialogue and debate are not considered valuable enough for an elected legislature to even consider is an understatement.  It is especially frustrating when the legislature is voting on a bill to assist one employer when these other matters could have equally far-reaching and deep impacts statewide.

As the Sikorsky announcement neared, Lockheed Martin executives underscored these underlying state issues saying it will cost the company $400 million more to produce King Stallion helicopters here. The recent departure of GE and the near-departure of Sikorsky are more than just the proverbial “canaries in a coal mine.”

Connecticut has traditionally been on the vanguard of innovative, high-tech manufacturing and professional sectors and we feel it is worth looking into alternative ways to promote and expand those, and others, well into the future. Even as our state economy struggles and both large and small employers consider relocating to more business friendly states, we are confident changes can be made to turn the ship and once again lead the nation.

We are truly pleased Sikorsky will continue to manufacture helicopters in their facility along the Housatonic River. However, on the same day we voted to secure their presence in the state until at least 2032, we were left wondering why even considering the underlying climate that almost caused Sikorsky’s departure was too much to ask.

New Laws Take Effect October 1

A number of new laws passed during the 2016 Legislative Session take effect October 1, 2016. These new laws may have an impact on you, your business, or our community.

Included among those Public Acts that will become law on that date is a measure I supported to assist small businesses across the state:

AN ACT CONCERNING THE IMPACT OF PROPOSED REGULATIONS ON SMALL BUSINESSES (PA 16-32) –  To require fiscal notes by the Office of Fiscal Analysis to include an estimate of the number of businesses that would be affected by proposed legislation and an estimated fiscal impact on such businesses and, for regulatory flexibility analyses of proposed regulations, to redefine small business to include any business with two hundred fifty or fewer employees and to require additional information in such analyses.  FOR MORE DETAILS CLICK HERE.

For a full list of bills taking effect on October 1, 2016, CLICK HERE.

OPINION: Why is photo identification considered voter suppression? I just don’t get it!

Why is photo identification considered voter suppression?  I just don’t get it!

As a card carrying “goo goo” (good government type) who has spent her entire legislative life encouraging voter participation (12 years as a member of the Government Administration & Elections Committee with 4 years as its Ranking Member), I have served on every single Task Force crafting legislation on contracting reform, ethics reform, voting technology reform, Freedom of Information reform, and campaign finance reform.  And, I have listened, with an open mind and heart, for hours – probably days and weeks – to compelling testimony for and against requiring voter photo identification.

Voting is the bedrock freedom of our democracy, and its security should be protected.  We need to present a photo id to board an airplane, register at a hotel, cash a check at our own bank, enter a government building or courthouse, and even obtain a senior citizen discount at a movie.

My proposal is that cities and towns would issue a photo identification card (not tied to a driver’s license) without charge to the requestor, and with costs assumed by the Citizens Election Program fund.  There is absolutely no hardship involved, and I think the sanctity of each citizen’s vote would be ensured.  To me, that is the ultimate voting right.

Please join the conversation by attending a forum on the “Election Matters: The State of Voting in 2016” – at 7 p.m. on September 20 at the Greenwich Library. The program is sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Greenwich Democratic and Republican Town Committees, and the Greenwich Library.

 

Rep. Floren Tours Greenwich Police Department

Greenwich Police Sergeant Thorme, Community Impact Section Supervisor, led a tour of the Greenwich Police Department for Reps. Floren, Camillo and Bocchino, and Senator Frantz. During the tour the legislators were able to see the different parts of the police department from the break rooms, to the gym, to the cell blocks and motor pool area while discussing the challenges facing police as they work to protect the community.

475_greenwich_delegation_pdtour_090816_dsc_8043 475_greenwich_delegation_pdtour_090816_dsc_8046 475_greenwich_delegation_pdtour_090816_dsc_8035 475_greenwich_delegation_pdtour_090816_dsc_8020 475_greenwich_delegation_pdtour_090816_dsc_8010 475_greenwich_delegation_pdtour_090816_dsc_8062