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Rep. Frey Update: Prioritize Progress: A Plan to Fully Fund the STF

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As it stands now, a major roadblock to Connecticut’s economic recovery remains the issue of transportation funding and how we prioritize spending.

Every state relies on its transportation network to drive economic development and maximize quality of life. Unfortunately, transportation has been ignored for far too long here in Connecticut. Funding has been unpredictable and unreliable.  It has long been a misguided tradition to siphon off funds intended for transportation projects to spend elsewhere. As a result our transportation system is far from where it needs to be to foster growth and advancement.

It is time to make transportation a priority.

On Friday, I joined the House Republican caucus in unveiling an updated plan for a long-term solution to advance transportation in Connecticut for the next generation. A component of our budget adjustment proposal for 2018, Prioritize Progress creates a predictable and sustainable funding stream to ensure that transportation will be properly prioritized for the next three decades.

Here is how we do it while keeping the budget balanced:

 

Require the state to:

1) Reserve a set amount of General Obligation Bonds to be used solely for transportation priorities.

2) Preserve Special Tax Obligation bonds dedicated to transportation.

3) Re-establish the Transportation Strategy Board (TSB) to work alongside CTDOT to assess proposed projects and identify community needs.

 

Benefits of the plan include:

  • An annual transportation funding mechanism guaranteeing over $1 billion annually over the next 30 years
  • No tax increases
  • No tolls
  • A reduction in state bonding compared to recent practices
  • Flexibility in setting transportation priorities
  • A sustainable and predictable funding plan to support future generations

 

By prioritizing funding for transportation and creating a more effective strategy for identifying urgencies, we can create a safe, reliable and multi-model transportation network – including roads, bridges, rail, bus, and port improvements. It is recommended that Connecticut first address immediate safety needs and deteriorating infrastructure and then consider progressive development for our future.

Everyone benefits from a strong transportation system, and progress can only be made if we prioritize transportation.

For more information about our budget proposal, click here.

As always, I am eager to hear from you if you have any questions or comments about Prioritize Progress, transportation funding, the state budget, or any other issue related to state government.  Please do not hesitate to email me at john.frey@housegop.ct.gov or call 800-842-1423.

Rep. Frey Votes Yes on Pay Equity Legislation as it Passes the House

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HARTFORD – State Representative John Frey (R-111) on Thursday voted in favor of a bill to strengthen labor protections for employees in an effort to discourage gender wage discrimination in Connecticut. Rep. Frey submitted a bill proposal to the Labor Committee at the beginning of the legislative session to address pay equity, which eventually became HB 5386, An Act Concerning Various Pay Equity and Fairness Matters, which he co-sponsored in the State House.

HB 5386, which passed the House on a 142-4 vote, prohibits employees from asking about a prospective employee’s wage history, unless the prospective employee voluntarily discloses it or the employer is authorized by law to do ask.

In Connecticut, the average woman will make $529,000 less in earning over her lifetime than a male and it is estimated women in Connecticut lose a combined $5.5 billion due to the wage gap.

“The pay equity bill that passed the House today represents an encouraging compromise between advocates of pay equity for women and the business community,” said Rep. Frey.  “I have long supported equal pay for equal work because levelling the playing field for women in the workplace will ultimately strengthen families and businesses alike.  While this legislation can’t completely eliminate gender discrimination, taking an employee’s wage history off the table during the job application process will help break the cycle of women getting underpaid compared to men.”

Although the law makes changes to the hiring process, the Connecticut Business & Industry Association helped the lawmakers reach the compromise and supports the measure.

“Enabling discriminatory hiring practices is not in the best interest of any business, which is why the CBIA played a role in the negotiations and acted in good faith to tackle gender wage discrimination,” said Rep. Frey.  “There is no reason to believe this law will make Connecticut businesses less competitive.  In fact, I think this opens many doors for businesses to obtain maximum potential from all of their employees and help them ensure their employees are compensated as fairly and as accurately as possible.  I reject the notion that allowing businesses to thrive and demanding fair treatment of employees have to be mutually exclusive concepts.  I am hopeful the State Senate will act on this and send it to the governor to be signed into law.”

After its passage in the House, HB 5386 now heads to the State Senate for consideration.

Rep. Frey Editorial: Tolls & Tax Deductions – Three Bills Impacting Ridgefield Pass Finance Committee

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April 17, 2018

Last week, the Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committee –which I sit on – approved three bill proposals that Ridgefield residents need to be aware of because of the long-term implications they would have on Connecticut’s future.

The first piece of legislation explores ways to implement electronic tolling on our highways and represents what I think is a misguided approach to restoring our economy.  All proposals related to tolls assume that Connecticut’s budget deficits exist because of a “lack of revenue” – a phrase that translates to “Connecticut residents are not taxed enough.”

I voted against all proposals involving tolls, and not least because they violate a core principle of mine, which is that I believe the legislature is out of line to ask for even one more dollar from Connecticut residents until we evaluate why we spend the most money on roads in the nation per mile, while studies find our roads in among the worst condition of all 50 states.

Further, the math for how tolls would solve our deficit does not add up without a truly unprecedented number of collection points. Take Massachusetts, a state nearly double the population of Connecticut, which collected $340 million in toll revenue from 19 toll sites in 2017.  The toll proposals we are considering here project revenue of $700-800 million.   To accomplish that, Connecticut would need as many as 84 toll gantries– more than any state in the nation!   I have seen proposals that would establish 12 gantries on I-84 between Danbury and Hartford.

We can avert the need for tolls by prioritizing our transportation projects and not raiding the transportation fund to prop up the General Fund.

A more encouraging development was the committee passing legislation I submitted to establish a tax credit for employers that provide family and medical leave benefits. The premise of the bill is to motivate businesses to ensure their employees have access to critical benefits without burdening them with a one-size-fits-all government mandate.  Since Connecticut continues to rank at or near the bottom of national lists for starting and growing a business, we require a creative solution for protecting employees.  It is imperative that we shed this anti-business reputation and incentive businesses with carrots so that they can contribute to a growing economy.

Finally, many Ridgefielders have expressed their concerns about the elimination of State and Local Tax (SALT) exemptions. The new federal tax reform law enacted by Congress caps SALT deductions at $10,000.  Given the already immense tax burden on families in our part of Connecticut, I made it a priority to alleviate the effects of this.  The third proposal approved by the committee is one I co-sponsored, which essentially permits taxpayers to reclassify their property tax payments as charitable donations. This would allow municipalities like Ridgefield to set up charitable organizations so taxpayers can continue to write off the full amount of their local property taxes.

During this uncertain period for Connecticut, my top priorities remain protecting taxpayers from lawmakers who want to put them on the hook for bailing out the state, building an environment where businesses can grow and thrive, and maintaining core government services.

Turning Connecticut around will take more than just these three bills. Restoring our economy will require a pro-growth brand of thinking that has been rejected in Hartford for the past seven years.  That’s why I have committed to oppose the backwards-looking tolls bill and support bills that help businesses and taxpayers.

 

Rep. Frey Celebrates Read Across America Day with Students at Farmingville Elementary School

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RIDGEFIELD – State Representative John Frey (R-111) visited Farmingville Elementary School in Ridgefield to read to students in celebration of Read Across America Day.

Read Across America Day is a nationwide reading celebration that takes place annually on March 2nd, which is Dr. Seuss’ birthday, with the goal of sharing the joy of reading with elementary schoolers.  Rep. Frey had been scheduled to visit the students on March 5th and another occasion, but school was cancelled because of snow each time.  On Friday, he read The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater to a class of second-graders and All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon to kindergarteners at Farmingville.

“It was my pleasure to visit Farmingville Elementary and read to the students there – we are lucky to have such tremendous teachers and school staff in Ridgefield,” said Rep. Frey.  “I had a lot of fun laughing with the kids and talking about my role in the state legislature, but I really hope the message of loving reading will stick with them as they continue through their school days.  Reading frequently is paramount to success in school and I hope they will pick up that habit early on.”

Rep. Frey Supports Ban on Bump Stocks

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HARTFORD – State Representative John Frey (R-111) teamed up with his friend and lead singer of the band, “Blues Traveler,” John Popper, in support of two bills designed to reduce gun deaths in Connecticut by targeting ways potential criminals could circumvent existing firearm legislation.

The two submitted testimony on HB 5542, which concerns bump stocks, ahead of a public hearing before the Judiciary Committee in Hartford on Friday. Rep. Frey co-sponsored this bill in the legislature, as well as another piece of gun safety legislation, HB 5540 regarding ghost guns.  Both were among the topics of the public hearing.

Rep. Frey described the bills as “reasonable proposals”, which could prevent future tragedies without infringing on the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

HB 5542 would ban the sale or transfer, possession, manufacturing or use of bump stocks or other accessories to increase the rate of fire of a firearm. As Rep. Frey noted, public awareness of bump stocks and similar devices increased after the Las Vegas mass shooting in October, when the shooter primarily used a bump stock on his AR-15 to allow automatic firing, resulting in 58 deaths and 489 wounded.  Fully automatic weapons have been illegal since 1986.

“Clearly, the use of bump stocks is an effort to circumvent the 1986 federal ban on fully automatic weapons,” said Rep. Frey.  “These are simple, easy-to-use devices that increase the firepower and killing power of firearms, and gun owners I have spoken with agree that there is no legitimate need for bump stocks or any other device that generates a repeated action of a firearm trigger.  These devices have been used too many times by individuals with the intent to hurt and kill others. I strongly believe in the passage of this bill.”

Rep. Frey also called upon his friend and lead singer of the band “Blues Traveler,” John Popper, to submit testimony in support of the bump stock ban. Popper, a Connecticut native, is an avid gun enthusiast and weapons collector who also supports outlawing ways to circumvent gun law, describing bump stocks as mostly a novelty used by hobbyists who want the experience of firing an automatic weapon.

“The first purpose of the act of shooting any weapon – from a bow to the most modern of weapons – is to direct the projectile as accurately as can be directed by the releaser of said projectile…in short, the shooter is responsible legally and morally for where his bullet goes. By design, these after-market stocks run exactly opposite to that premise, and thereby cannot be justified by any shooter who practices the discipline of shooting in any safe, sane way, and that includes any who shoot true fully-automatic weapons,” Popper wrote in his testimony.  “The addition of these bump stocks lessens accuracy and in doing so, they are fundamentally more dangerous.”

Rep. Frey is also advocating for HB 5540 to prohibit “ghost guns” – guns without serial numbers.  The legislation essentially regulates all firearms that are sold in a form requiring the purchaser to finish assembly of the weapon or any gun that is homemade.

In his testimonies to the committee, Rep. Frey related his personal connection to gun violence.

“Gun violence has touched me too close for comfort,” said Rep. Frey.  “I have twin nieces and a nephew who attended Sandy Hook Elementary School five years ago. Although they both survived the horrific shooting, they have suffered from the negative impact this event had on their lives.”

Noting his past support of Connecticut’s gun laws, Rep. Frey urged the committee to pass the bills through to the House.

Currently, both bills await consideration by the Judiciary Committee.