We live in extraordinary times. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our lives came to a standstill with shelter-in-place orders on March 14. Following this public health and economic crisis came the national debate on racial disparities and police accountability. Every one of us has been directly impacted. It’s a time to feel sobered and be reflective. So, how do we move forward?
Issues and opportunities looking forward
— Public health. Responses from our departments of labor and public health during the coronavirus exposed the fault lines of inefficient, big government bureaucracy. We need to push for greater accountability and efficient processes for a better and more timely delivery of critical services and accurate reporting within these agencies. We can do this.
— Education. It will be critical to safeguard the quality of public school education in our state focused on equal opportunity for all students with stronger local accountability. We also need to ensure state funding adequately addresses the school shutdowns, particularly in our urban districts.
— Reopening Connecticut’s economy. We need to work proactively with our local businesses to support them in economic recovery from the impact brought on by coronavirus. We must set smart policy to encourage job creators to settle and stay in Connecticut. Our governor will continue to run the state by executive order until Sept. 9. Decisions how to reopen are being made with specific criteria guiding each phase of reopening with input from legislators and constituents. It’s critical to find the practical balance between public health and getting people back to work.
— Safety and police accountability. Connecticut has some of the highest police recruiting, and best training and accountability standards in the country. This will be an opportunity to validate what our police departments are doing well and identlfy areas that would benefit further development. I will keep you updated.
— Absentee voting and mail-in ballots. The governor recently announced his intention to make a statutory language change, allowing all residents the option to vote absentee during any future pandemic. This makes good sense. In addition, there may be legislation allowing a full mail-in balloting process for the November election — a safeguard in the event of a coronavirus rebound. It will be imperative that this process be safe and secure with custody of control assured, to protect the integrity of our elections.
— State budget. The pandemic has taken a toll on our already unsteady finances. With projected deficits of $570 million for fiscal year ending June 30, and $2.3 billion for next fiscal year, we must make adjustments to our $40 billion biennium budget. Practical budget cuts will have to be made to address the shortfall, though there is a group of legislators calling for tax increases.
Despite these serious fiscal challenges, many state union employees are in line to receive a 3.5 to 5 percent pay increase on July 1, at a cost of $197 million. Many taxpayers in our state have lost their jobs, been furloughed or forced to take pay cuts. For this select group of state workers to get increases now is simply not right. Connecticut union leaders, with support of the majority party in Hartford, refuse to reconsider, despite the financial detriment to our state. This makes no sense.
Let’s work together
With Connecticut in a state of “disruption,” we have a tremendous opportunity to change the way we view state services and what we can do better. Given our significant fiscal issues, this is the time to pivot. Together, let’s make an honest assessment of what services government should continue to deliver and which are better left to the private sector to do in a more cost efficient and effective way.
Though our Capitol has been shutdown, I’ve been active from home, connecting with constituents, helping them navigate state agencies and deal with key issues. My passion hasn’t changed nor my respect for good policy, a fair process and the importance of doing the right thing for people in Connecticut. We will survive these extraordinary times and come out with life lessons, opportunities and silver linings we didn’t expect. Of this, I’m sure. Working together will be key.
Please stay in touch. I post resources and updates regularly on my state web page — repterriewood.com — and also communicate via e-blast on a regular basis. You may sign up for my e-blast on my webpage or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is deeply important to me to hear your thoughts and perspectives.