Monday, December 28, 2015

"Ground Hog Day" at the Capitol

State Rep. Christie CarpinoOriginally published in the Middletown Press.

To the Editor:

Last week at the Capitol felt like the movie, “Ground Hog Day.” Over and over again, major pieces of legislation are passed in a mad rush. Unintended consequences, the inability to discuss issues with constituents, and a failure to properly vet details have become the norm. This is not good government.

It should come as no surprise that Connecticut’s financial woes are mere months into a two-year budget. At the end of session last June, the majority voted for an irresponsible budget that Portland and Cromwell residents could simply not afford. The solution was for the governor to dispatch state troopers to the homes of 187 legislators for the purpose of solving this problem via special session.

State troopers are charged with protecting the citizens of Connecticut. Diverting public safety resources to physically deliver a last-minute “invitation” to fix a budget isn’t good government.
Minutes before our 10 a.m. start time, we were presented with a 113-page “working draft.” Again, there were more than 100 pages with no opportunity to talk to you, the people I represent. There were rumors beforehand, but no language to be seen. Cuts are always difficult, but not having the opportunity to discuss them with you before voting is worse.

Prior to the debate on the mitigation plan, the House of Representatives voted on a transportation “lock box,” which will safeguard money allotted to the Special Transportation Fund so it will not be used for other purposes. I voted yes, as I had sponsored a similar proposal during the regular session and believe we need to protect funding meant for the repair and construction of our roads, bridges and highways.

However, since this proposal was a constitutional amendment and it did not receive the support from three-quarters of all state legislators, the question will not appear on the 2016 ballot.

The deficit mitigation plan was the last order of business the House took up Dec. 8. The mitigation plan did not restore full funding to Connecticut hospitals, including Middlesex Hospital, which will lose millions in funding, further stressing and stretching the resources needed for the hospital to provide the highest quality of care to anybody that walks in the door.

Middlesex Hospital is also a major driver of our local economy in the 32nd District, as close to 300 of employees of Middlesex live in Cromwell and Portland alone.

The mitigation package serves as a temporary fix. My fellow Republicans and I advocated for structural changes calling for a long-term approach to create a cohesive budget policy. A limit on bond commission allocations, creating a long-term plan to care for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and competitively bidding health-care services to the state’s inmates, were among our suggestions but none were implemented.

Such changes were not addressed, thus solidifying the majority party’s agenda to piecemeal budget funding, which effectively creates only a temporary fix to the ongoing budget crisis.
I fear failure to enact long-term structural changes in government will result in another rendition of “Ground Hog Day” in Hartford.

State Rep. Christie Carpino, Cromwell and Portland
Co-chair Program Review and Investigation Committee;
Judiciary and Public Health committees member

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