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Letter: Reviewing 2011 in the Legislature

WILTON, Conn. - The following is a letter from state Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, in review of 2011. Boucher also represents parts of New Canaan, Weston and Westport.

2011 was a historic year in Connecticut. A super majority Legislature, which has been at the helm for over 30 years, was joined by a governor of the same party for the first time in two decades. This was also the year that a historic tax increase was enacted. And although the budget and tax policies passed in 2011 continue to disturb many of us, we look forward to a new year and a new session.

It should be a year of more agreement and teamwork. And education — one of the issues that drives my public service — will be at the forefront. The governor has inspired some optimism that bold ideas may move forward. Stay tuned for a future update on these interesting proposals.

At a recent town hall meeting in our district, we presented an overview of previous sessions and of 2012.

A positive outcome from 2011 was a special jobs session. Some of the positive initiatives passed include:

  • Streamlining the permitting process that currently impedes economic development.
  • Changes to the business entity tax, a $250 annual tax required of companies even if they are not actively working or hiring. The jobs bill makes the tax biennial to give businesses some relief.
  • A $500 tax credit per month for three years, for every new employee hired after the New Year and before Jan. 1, 2014. This tax credit increases to $900 if the person hired is unemployed or a veteran.
  • Learn Here, Live Here – Allows Connecticut public university graduates working in the state to save their tax money for a down payment on a house.

The jobs session was a good start, but much more needs to be done for small businesses and entrepreneurs. It’s a well-known fact that Connecticut ranks near to last in the nation in overall business climate.

Some of the less positive outcomes of last year’s session include:

  • New tax policies resulting in the largest tax increase in Connecticut history. Connecticut also became the only state in the U.S. to institute a luxury tax, the unearned income tax credit, paid sick leave and increase the gross receipt fuel tax, which is a percentage tax that increases with price.  
  • Executive orders which unionized home day care, home health care aides and personal assistants for the elderly and disabled, raising the cost of these services.
  • Early release for prisoners and reduced penalties for drunken driving.

For a full list and summaries of the 29 bills that became effective Jan. 1, visit www.cga.ct.gov.

Looking ahead to the 2012 session, the following issues will take center stage:

Education – ECS funding, teacher tenure and evaluations, teacher layoff provisions, charter schools, and universal kindergarten are sure to be debated. There will also be a renewed focus on vocational schools at the urging of the manufacturing industry. 

Transportation – We also spoke about the many aspects of transportation infrastructure that should be addressed in 2012. These areas include rail, roads, bridges, ports, freight and airports.

Other hot topics that are sure to come up in the next session include tolls, transportation funding, online gambling, Sunday sales of alcohol, same day registration and voting, as well as online voting.

The next session begins Feb. 8. I look forward to working with my colleagues on these and other priorities. In particular, state leaders must address the reasons why Connecticut is the subject of national headlines that proclaim:

  • Connecticut is the most heavily taxed state.
  • Connecticut has the highest debt per capita of any state and just received a bond downgrade from Moody’s.
  • Connecticut is the worst state to retire in due to taxing of income, pensions, cars, inheritance and real estate.

We can no longer afford to delay taking positive action to reverse these negative trends and make Connecticut once again, a great place to live. As always I welcome your ideas and offer my office to you if you have any questions or concerns.

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