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Ronna Stuller

Running for State Representative

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Party: Green Party

CEP Status: nonparticipating


Age: 67

Marital Status: Married

Current Residence: New London

Current Job: Retired

Previous Job: Infant-toddler teacher

Previous Job: Head Start home visitor

Education: Bachelor degree / ECSU

Do you believe public schools in Connecticut require an essential makeover, as outlined by Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher's decision in September? What, in your opinion, is the number-one issue regarding public education in the state?
I believe that there are serious problems with how Connecticut funds its public schools, but do not agree with many of the details in Judge Moukawsher's decision. To address the inequities, in the short term, (1) our state's ECS (education cost sharing) formula should be followed more consistently in determining the contribution to each town, and (2) the state should cover a far larger share (and possibly all) of the cost of federally-mandated services for special education; reliance on the LEAs (local education agencies) to pay for disability services exacerbates the gap between wealthy and disadvantaged communities. For me, the #1 education issue in Connecticut is disparate accessibility to resources resulting in a severe opportunity- and achievement-gap, which has provided an excuse for excessive and inappropriate standardized testing, labeling of schools in impoverished areas "failing," and shifting public education funds to privately-run and unaccountable charter schools.
Will you oppose legislation that will require utility customers to subsidize the profitability of merchant generators, such as the Millstone nuclear power plant, unless those merchant generators demonstrate the need to their customers and the state with financial reports that show their actual loss in profits?
As a general rule, I am not in favor of public subsidies to businesses, so of course I would oppose legislation that would require customers to subsidize the profitability of merchant generators. Too often, profits are privatized and costs are socialized, to the benefit of corporations and the detriment of taxpayers. One exception: I would like to see Connecticut enact a statewide, single-payer "Medicare for All" healthcare system, such as Colorado voters will see on their ballots this November. By decoupling health insurance from employment, we could remove a massive burden from companies large and small, helping our citizens while also improving our states' businesses' competitive edge.
How would you reduce the state employee pension liabilities and debt service, which together comprise 25% of the state's annual budget?
Addressing the cost of debt service, a state-owned public bank, modeled on the 100-year-old Bank of North Dakota, could provide a revenue stream, sharply reduce bank fees, and keep interest payment funds in the state to support the local economy. To find ideas to reduce the state employee pension liabilities, we should look to the (very few) states which have managed to fully fund their pensions; ideas include consolidating all government employees (state, county, municipal, teachers and legislators) into a single plan and tying pension benefits to investment performance. Additionally, creating a statewide healthcare system would allow costly insurance benefits for retirees to be assimilated into the universal plan.
Does Connecticut have a revenue problem or a spending problem?
Both! Connecticut's state income tax is not as progressive as it should be. I would support a small surcharge – perhaps 1/2% – on annual income above $1,000,000, which would ease our financial straits without overburdening wealthy residents. That said, I have frequently taken issue with the state's spending priorities. I prefer an approach based on ROI (return on investment) rather than approaching the budget as a wishlist, and I applaud those lawmakers who are currently using Results Based Accountability to evaluate effectiveness of spending choices.
Would you support laws that provide for family leave or other workplace flexibility for employees who have to take time off for family caregiving purposes? What proposals would you champion to help family caregivers who are balancing a career and family obligations or health emergencies?
Yes! The United States ranks last among the world's developed countries in providing maternal leave, despite the positive outcomes to the health of mother and baby. A paid leave system could be funded similarly to Social Security, through a small tax deducted from wages. I believe that workplaces would benefit as well from less turnover and more loyal, productive and healthier employees. In addition, we need more workplace flexibility for new fathers, as well as for those caring for ill and/or elderly family members, perhaps by expanding permitted use of sick leave for those purposes.
Community College students recently won a reprieve but are facing the possibility of a significant tuition hike. What are you planning to do to ensure that community college remains an affordable option for families?
I believe that it is an obligation and an investment in the future for us to provide affordable higher education - at both community colleges and institutions in our state university system - so that the experience is accessible to students from all income levels. One of the priorities of the Bank of North Dakota is to make low-interest college loans available, and a Connecticut public bank could certainly take on that role. But, addressing the cost of higher education, I'd like to broaden the discussion. Connecticut currently spends an average of over $50,000 per year for each inmate in our prisons, and the average daily population is over 18,000. Many incarcerated individuals committed nonviolent crimes related to drug use/possession. Beyond the racial disparities we see in our criminal justice system, our policy of prohibition is using up funds that can be used to provide affordable education for every student, if we only have the will to change our priorities.
What would you do as a state legislator to address the opioid epidemic in our state?
For emergency use to reverse overdoses, expanding the availability of Narcan (naloxone) is a good first step. Legalizing medical marijuana has been a good second step, as recent research suggests that cannabis can provide a gateway out of opioid addiction and reduce overdose deaths. For further guidance, we can look to the example of Portugal, where, in response to a crisis similar to what we are currently facing, drug use was decriminalized and safe injection sites established about a dozen years ago; since then, overdose deaths are unheard of, and rates of addiction and drug-related crime have dropped. Again a universal system which supports physical and mental health needs would play an important role in any transition to a harm reduction approach to drug use. While of course we would like to see addicts get "clean," it is important to improve public health outcomes by supporting greater safety for drug users by regulating substances' purity and dosage and providing clean needles as needed. Since we already have, with little fanfare, supervised consumption sites for regulated substitutes such as methadone and suboxone, it is not such a stretch to imagine supervised consumption sites for heroin as well, as long as we can set aside our biases for the greater good.
Today, over 600,000 residents in our state don’t have a way to save for retirement at work. Knowing that employees are 15 times more likely to save merely by having access to payroll deduction, will you commit to supporting the newly passed Connecticut Retirement Security Act that will provide these workers with access to private payroll deduction IRA accounts?
I will happily commit to supporting the Connecticut Retirement Security Act to provide all workers with access to private payroll deduction IRA accounts. Beyond that, I am committed to advocating for Congress to secure the sustainability of Social Security by raising (or removing) the income ceiling that currently makes it a regressive tax, and by keeping Social Security funds safe from being raided for other federal spending purposes.
Who are you supporting for president and why?
I was actively involved in the successful petitioning effort to place Green Party candidate Jill Stein on the Connecticut ballot. I continue to support Dr. Stein because she is the only candidate who is committed to aggressively addressing climate change, enacting of universal "Medicare for All" healthcare, easing students' crippling debt load, reducing military spending, and protecting journalists and whistleblowers who provide valuable information to the public.