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Jonathan Steinberg

Running for State Representative

2 CTNewsJunkie Reader Endorsements

Party: Democrat

CEP Status:


Age: 66

Marital Status: married to Nancy, with three daughters: Rachel, Margot and Charlotte

Current Residence: Westport

Current Job: legislator

Previous Job: SVP Marketing/Communications, Jewish Home Lifecare, NYC

Previous Job: Executive Director, Marketing/Communications, Mount Sinai Medical Center, NYC

Education: B.A. Yale University, M.B.A. NYU Stern School of Business, CT Teaching Certificate, ARC Program, Dept. of Education

What action(s) will you take to reduce out-of-pocket drug costs and reduce the impact of the cost of prescription drugs on taxpayers and insurance premiums?
I've supported efforts to source drugs from Canada and elsewhere to seek lower costs as the federal government struggles to do what is necessary. We've capped prices on insulin and there may be a few other instances where we can do some similar for critical, oft-used drugs. We also need to do more to limit the additional cost represented by pharmacy manager middlemen.
In these inflationary times, what will you do to help ensure that Connecticut’s middle-income retirees on fixed incomes are able to keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets?
The recent arrival of a bear market highlights the vulnerability of those dependent on equities to fund their retirements. Last session, we made initial efforts to limit tax liability for those on fixed incomes. I'm open to exploring additional steps.
How do you plan to address the growing long-term care workforce crisis in the state?
I've been talking about this crisis for over a decade. It starts with adequate compensation for these employees who can make better money flipping burgers than taking care of our most vulnerable. It also involves adequate housing and transportation so that employees have reasonable/affordable commutes to their jobs. Lastly, we need to consider fundamental reform of our long-term care facilities, including a review of the condition of these facilities, many of which were shown to be inadequate during the pandemic's earliest days.
Gas prices are higher than ever, which is difficult for older adults on fixed incomes. Yet, alternatives to cars in Connecticut are limited. What will you do to help older adults access other forms of transportation?
I've long been a proponent of public mass transportation as a public good requiring subsidies. Mass transit has been hurting because of reduced ridership during the pandemic and is struggling to recover. I favor significant investment in mass transit, while recognizing the urgent need to upgrade roads, rails and bridges as well.
What are the two most urgent problems facing Connecticut within the context of climate change and the environment, and what will you propose to solve them?
1) Reliance on fossil fuels: while we'll likely need fossil fuels in the short-term, we need to enable the transition to renewable energy by promoting these sources, upgrading the electric grid to handle two-way flow, and building more storage to mitigate intermittency. 2) The waste management conundrum: we can't ship it out of state anymore, so we're faced by burning it or burying it -- both bad options! I have been emphasizing separating organics to be sent to aerobic digestors on farms and a broader solution to replace the failed single-stream waste paradigm. We can do a better job of separating out metals, glass and certain plastics which can be recycled.
How can Connecticut's education systems create better outcomes for students in low-income communities?
First, we need to recognize the devastation caused by the pandemic on our children. Many lost a year or more of education -- and socialization. Resources should be devoted to remediating lost opportunities to put students back on track. It's not just a matter of how much we spend per student. Only individualized learning methodologies will allow every child to reach their potential.
Pedestrian deaths spiked a few years ago and remain high, and it's fairly clear that driver behavior, such as distracted driving, is only getting worse despite significant efforts by law enforcement to stop it. How can Connecticut's streets be made safe for pedestrians and bicyclists?
There have been a number of good "safe streets" initiatives coming out of the Transportation Committee, on which I've served for twelve years. Traffic calming measures are helpful, but pedestrians and bicyclists also need to be aware of the rules of the road, and remain aware and vigilant for their own protection. Many communities don't have roads wide enough for separate bike lanes and struggle to fund more sidewalks. The state can be helpful in pursuing those ends with additional funding.
How should the state and its school districts deal with COVID-19 going forward?
I anticipate some surge during the winter, but expect most school districts to remain open and focused on in-person learning. Getting everyone vaccinated with the new omicron-focused booster is critical. It make be the best way to avoid any mandates. The Governor has been exemplary in dealing with the pandemic and expect he and his staff will continue to apply sound decision-making going forward.
What should be done on the state level to further address Connecticut's lack of affordable housing? Do you support, for example, mandating or incentivizing towns and cities to alter their zoning codes to be friendlier to affordable housing?
Housing diversity is something we all should support for the vitality of our communities. Unfortunately, this discussion has devolved into unfair accusations of segregation and racism, which is not helpful. The now antiquated 8-30g statute has had draconian impacts on many suburban communities and should be replaced with a new methodology which sets reasonable goals for each community. Incentives are better than punitive policies, but it starts with each municipality adopting inclusionary zoning plans, now required by state law. I'm hopeful we can develop a better system which will accelerate the growth in affordable units to meet the burgeoning need.
What can be done to prevent excessive consolidation of the healthcare industry and the loss of services – or, in some cases, the loss of small hospitals themselves – in the state's rural areas?
As Chair of the Public Health Committee, this is an issue I've considered for some time. The State needs to be careful about interfering in the healthcare marketplace, but we have an obligation to assure healthcare access, quality and reasonable costs -- all at risk if consolidation goes too far. Small hospitals are often critical resources in the communities they serve, but struggle to perform enough tertiary care to maintain quality standards. In the past, I've focused on dialogue with all the players, but I recognize that voluntary measures many no longer be sufficient. What precisely the State's role ought to be is not yet clear, but will be a subject for debate this session.
Do you think the state's two major electric utilities (Eversource and United Illuminating) are sufficiently regulated? If not, what measures would you take to ensure that consumers are protected to the greatest extent possible against prolonged loss of services and unfair rate increases?
CT is burdened with a vestigial regulatory framework which freed utilities from generation responsibilities but inadequately incentivizes smart investments and improved performance, with no relief for ratepayers. We made some headway in revising the incentive/penalty structure during the special legislative session, but the underlying issues remain. Unfortunately, we now face the urgent need for electric grid infrastructure investment so we can compete and enable the grid of the future -- with an emphasis on greater grid resiliency and reliability. These costs will be borne primarily by ratepayers in the near-term, although such investments should mitigate rate increases down the road.
What is your position on whether Connecticut should open its election primaries to unaffiliated voters?
I'm curious about both party-free primaries and ranked-choice voting. Holding primaries in August when no one's around or focused on the election assures that the more extreme candidates from both parties have an advantage. Representative government depends on voter participation and I'm a big supporter of our efforts to update our constitution to facilitate voter access. As a Moderate, I'm eager to explore means to elect consensus candidates not beholden to partisan extremes.
What can be done to improve the business climate in Connecticut while COVID-19 continues to be a risk?
An infrastructure jobs program modeled on the old federal WPA. Could create good-paying jobs in transportation, energy, water and housing infrastructure.
What specific legislation would you support to reduce racism in Connecticut?
Likely support police accountability legislation. Will judge other bills on the merits.
With so much uncertainty ahead about COVID-19, how would you ensure that the people's business – both at the legislature and in all of our elections – will be conducted effectively, and with full participation, in the safest possible manner for the foreseeable future?
Looks like Zoom-type meetings will continue for some time. We need to find way for public to participate in hearings. Fully support expansion of mail-in ballots so citizens can vote safely.
With higher education facing major changes because of the pandemic, what steps will you take to make sure that Connecticut’s residents have access to college and/or other job training that won’t leave them tens of thousands of dollars in debt?
Tuition-free community college is the goal -- as long as we can figure out how to pay for it. Infrastructure initiative will require job training.
What is one specific policy you support to help protect African Americans as an at-risk group during the pandemic?
Support acknowledging that racism is a public health emergency.
How can Connecticut lower healthcare costs while also improving quality and access to care?
Expand use of Telehealth; negotiating drug prices for HUSKY insured; support caps on insulin prices.
What should Connecticut do to re-tool our public health for COVID-19 and the possibility of future pandemics, while also addressing other chronic illnesses that put people at risk every day?
Telehealth; investment in nursing home and congregate facilities, particularly HVAC systems; shift more spending to healthcare
Connecticut’s revenues will sharply decline as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and, unlike Congress, Connecticut has a balanced budget requirement. What changes would you make to balance the budget? (If you want cuts, be specific what will be cut. If you want to raise taxes, be specific about which taxes.)
Rainy Day Fund will cover most of short-term deficit but hoping that economy will rebound to address ongoing shortfalls.
Based on estimates that out-of-state drivers would contribute 30-40% of overall revenue if highway tolls are implemented in Connecticut, would you support tolls with or without offsetting cuts in the state's gas taxes?
I support tolls because the Special Transportation Fund is effectively empty, the list of critical "state of good repair" projects is growing rapidly and over 300 state bridges need critical work. I also support tolls to reduce congestion in Fairfield County, which remains the economic engine in the state. I would not reduce the gas tax.
Eversource and some out-of-state entities appear to be attempting to buy control of Connecticut's water resources, and some of our quasi-public water agencies have signed away large amounts of water to commercial interests with little regard to future water shortages. What can you do to ensure that Connecticut residents maintain control of public water supplies in perpetuity?
We have oversight authorities such as PURA to review such mergers/acquisitions. Perhaps the Legislature needs to consider legislation that would assure the state's precious water resources are protected and that social, economic and environmental interests are harmonized.
Much of Connecticut is economically and racially segregated because many towns lack affordable housing and local zoning regulations prohibit multi-family dwellings. How would you propose incentivizing municipalities to start allowing multi-family units and other affordable housing options?
The current affordable housing system is based on state grants to cities but punitive statutes which enable predatory developers in the suburbs. If we desire truly balanced affordable housing across the state, we'll need to reform the system to partner with suburban municipalities and offer incentives for permitting more affordable units in appropriate locations with adequate infrastructure and adherence to SmartGrowth principles.
How should the state address disparities in the Education Cost Sharing formula? What specific modifications would you suggest, if any?
The ECS formula is broken and needs a complete rethinking. Any new model should be simple to explain and administer, not rife with special exceptions and ancient carve outs. Most importantly, a new model should be measurable, because spending per student is often not the best indicator of educational excellence, or even progress.
Would you support legislation to "ban the box," prohibiting employers from asking the question about criminal convictions on a job application?
Would you vote for a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana? Why or why not?
Probably yes -- all the surrounding states are going that way -- but the language would be critically important. I'd model it on the state's successful medical marijuana program with its rigorous chain of custody, security, product integrity and labeling. I remain concerned about underage access and law enforcement conundrums.
How should the state balance the needs of vulnerable populations with the reality of another large budget deficit?
We've been cutting programs and services for the most vulnerable for the last eight years, by dint of desperation, and we're now eliminating programs which we know work and are critical to people. We must achieve a sustainable budget to avoid further draconian cuts, by looking for innovative solutions including the efforts of the Pension Sustainability Commission, which I Chair.
A recent report found 40 percent of Connecticut residents can't afford basic needs such as housing, food, health care, or child care. What would you do to improve their situation?
Jobs, jobs, jobs! Create opportunities for all to participate in our economy through incentives to get training and education for the jobs of today. Help small companies to grow and prosper here, creating new, good-paying jobs.
Will you support top-down efforts to regionalize local services with an eye toward more efficiency and reducing the state's obligations regarding ECS and/or other funding for towns? How would you go about it?
As former Chair of the M.O.R.E. Commission, I worked to promote a top-down approach to regionalizing purchasing and shared services. The State's budget situation makes it unlikely that incentives through grants will be forthcoming. So I like the bottom-up initiatives facilitated at the municipal level with the help of organizations like CCM. There are plenty of examples and best practices right here in CT on which to base such programs.
Where and how should state government focus its efforts in order to grow jobs?
Creating the environment to grow key industry clusters like bioscience and green tech. But also make it easier for small businesses like the precision manufacturing sector and new startups to grow.
Should the government's response to the opioid crisis be to focus on law enforcement to stop drug dealers, or improving access to treatment for addiction and reducing the overprescription of painkillers?
The law enforcement emphasis has not stemmed the epidemic. As House Chair of the Public Health Committee, I understand that expanding treatment options and adopting best practices based on medically assisted treatment are the best path to ending this crisis. We've already passed legislation to require education of prescribers and patients, track frequent opioid use, reduce prescription quantities, and making NARCAN more available for emergencies. But we need more funding for mental health as well as recovery and treatment access.
In 2016 the Connecticut Retirement Security Program was created. It will give over 600,000 residents in our state 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, how will you continue the implementation of this important program?
Unfortunately, it's a flawed system which may cost more than it benefits in the short term. Fixing it should be a priority.
The 459,000 family caregivers in Connecticut provide an estimated 427 million hours of care each year. Nationwide, nearly seven in ten caregivers report making work accommodations because of caregiving, including arriving late/leaving early, cutting back their hours, changing jobs, or stopping work entirely. Would you support a family leave law that provides paid leave to employees who have to take time off for family caregiving purposes?
Yes, but not the legislation that was proposed last session. Any program should be able to cover its anticipated costs. Following the models of some other states may allow us to consider such a bill in the coming session.