Investing in Connecticut’s Future

House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz kicks off the press conference

This morning I joined House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz and colleagues from across the state at a press conference at Goodwin College in East Hartford to unveil the 2016 House Democrats campaign platform entitled “Investing in Connecticut’s Future.”

There are a lot of great ideas within the plan that I look forward to talking with the voters of Guilford and Branford about between now and Election Day.

Below are a few ideas I look forward to working on in my next term. If you’re interested in reading all 32 policy proposals, check them out here.

As always, I hope you’ll tell me what you think about these ideas and give me your ideas.

Make Higher Education More Affordable

Cost should not be a reason that someone doesn’t attend an institution of higher education. For many of our recent graduates, a loan payment costs more than a monthly rent payment. In many cases this debt burden can prevent them from purchasing a home and starting a family. In 2015 we passed the Student Loan Bill of Rights. We will continue our efforts to help make financing college more affordable.

House Democrats proposes that we allow students to deduct student loan interest from their state income taxes (student loan interest is already deductible on their federal income taxes). In addition, we propose that every student who graduates from a Connecticut High School at the top of their class and attends a public institution of higher education in Connecticut will be provided with a scholarship. We will be sure to track the students that take advantage of this program to ensure that it inspires all students to reach the top of their class and stay in Connecticut.

Make Sure we Have Equal Pay for Equal Work

House Democrats will change the standard from “equal work” to “substantially similar work” to prohibit an employer from paying any of its employees at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.

Eliminate the State Income Tax on Social Security Payments

We are one of only 13 states who tax Social Security. Retirees are already struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living on their fixed incomes. The least we can do is provide them this tax break.

Provide First-Time Homebuyers a Break on their Income Taxes for the first 3 Years that they Own a Home in Connecticut

CT is a wonderful state to raise a family in, but we need to attract more residents. With our great institutions of higher learning, we have many students who come to CT for school and then settle in other states. House Democrats proposes creating a program where the state provides an income tax exemption for the first three years for first-time home-buyers. In addition to helping these families and attracting residents, this policy will also help our towns that have a high number of vacant properties get those properties back onto the tax rolls.

Make Sure You Can Take Time Off to Care for a Newborn or a Sick Loved One

Everyone deserves to be able to take time off to care for themselves, for a newborn child, or a sick parent. House Democrats are committed to working with employers and employees to develop a program to provide earned, paid time off to workers that protects our local small businesses. Nearly 6 in 10 small businesses support publicly-administered family and medical leave insurance pools funded by employees. These policies would cover maternity leave, paternity leave, and more time off for workers who need to care for a sick child or relative.

Developing an “Angel Investors” Program to Provide Additional Capital to Small Businesses

An Angel Investor is someone who invests in a startup company in exchange for equity in that company. Angels provide entrepreneurs with seed capital, which is very difficult to raise. The state’s current Angel Investor program is limited to Connecticut companies that are engaged in bioscience, advanced materials, photonics, clean tech, or IT, and the company must have gross revenue of less than $1 million per year, fewer than 25 employees, have operated for less than 7 years, and have already received less than $2 million from angel investors. House Democrats propose opening the Angel Investor program to additional industries and creating a program to pool the resources of Angel Investors so small businesses can apply for this funding.

Creation of a 1–800 Number so that Business Owners can Easily Find Out About State Services

Create one-stop resource center for businesses. Entrepreneurs have expressed frustration that needed resources and information are scattered across multiple state agencies. If a company wants to relocate to or expand in Connecticut they will be able to call a central resource center at a single phone number that is always staffed.

Expand Support for Aging in Place Programs

Not only is it more cost effective to keep seniors living in their homes but it is also what seniors want. Visiting nurses, homemaker companions, and other skilled people that come to their homes make remaining at home possible. The Department of Rehabilitative Services provides grants to help people pay for home modifications for things like accessibility grab bars, ramps, stair lifts, etc. to allow people to remain at home and avoid more expensive nursing home care. We need to expand on this program so we can help more seniors Age in Place. We will also work with local communities to ensure that their zoning laws keep up with the needs of changing families, but also keep people safe and preserve local character.

Hold Everyone who Receives State Funds Accountable to Specific Benchmarks

Every state agency, nonprofit organization, or state contractor that receives money from the state should be held accountable. Beginning in 2010, the Results Based Accountability subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee began working with state agencies to identify objectives and how to measure success. Although we have made progress in certain departments, we need to build these benchmarks into the actual budget document.

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