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?
2) A rational, fair, equitable and verifiable funding for school districts that provide every child in the State with the same opportunity and quality education. Funding is only one of several issues that plague our education system.
3) The Common Core SBAC testing scheme is the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory annual testing system mandated by by the State. Designed to fail a vast share of Connecticut’s students, the SBAC test is aligned to the Common Core, rather than what is actually taught in Connecticut’s classrooms. This must be changed so that we actually know how are children are learning and we where the child's interests and aptitude are so that appropriate direction and guidance can be given.
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?
YES. I would also want to see specific spending items, and a report on the expected safe, longevity of the operation.
How would you reduce the state employee pension liabilities and debt service, which together comprise 25% of the state's annual budget?
1) Putting SustiNet, the Connecticut State health insurance program passed in 2009, into effect immediately. The best health economists in the nation have said, in its first full year of operation SustiNet would cost state government $950 million while producing a savings of $1.35 billion for state employers and $540 million for households. It would also attracting $800 million in new federal dollars. That means the State Budget would be reduced by over $500,000,000, with comparable budget reductions in Connecticut City and Town budgets, as well as the budgets for non-profits.
2) I would look at the formula for pension payments that are based on the employee's base pay without the overtime adjustments.
3) The revenue from the sale of State Bonds should only be used to pay off these long term debt obligations, and not be placed in the general fund to balance the State budget. Bonds should only be used for public projects, and not for profitable Global Corporations, which have easy access to tradition lending through financial institutions.
4) Obviously, a better revenue stream would provide the State with the needed resources to begin to pay down our long term debt. this is addressed in the next question.
Does Connecticut have a revenue problem or a spending problem?
I believe that at this point in time, State revenues have been declining and there is a need to look at our priorities in spending. Our spending cuts have in many ways hurt our most vulnerable citizens. Increasing State revenues can be accomplished by:
1) Putting SustiNet into effect immediately. This has been briefly explained above.
2) Cities like Norwich need a Hotel Occupancy Tax. I proposed a $5/night or 3% (whichever is greater) that would provide some property tax relief of approximately $500,000./year for Norwich, and every City that in the State. The State could add an additional 1% that would also benefit our State Budget.
3) The State's one reliable revenue source is from the State income tax paid by working families. By raising the State's minimum wage to $15./hr would in turn increase the State's revenue, as well as provide families with some extra income to spend locally, benefiting businesses.
4) We know that Corporate welfare, corporate tax abatements and incentives not only reduce revenue but hide the true costs of maintaining state services and preventing voters from understanding the ramifications of these programs. It shifts the burden of making up these lost taxes and maintaining essential services onto working families. In the past Corporations moved to Connecticut because of the quality of life offered here: Good schools, good infrastructure, skilled workers. But they have not contributed their fair share of taxes to maintain that quality of life we all enjoyed. No more corporate welfare.
5) We need proper oversight over corporate welfare that are disguised as economic development programs. We must transfer the analysis of tax credits from DECD to Program Review, a bipartisan committee with a staff of non-partisan researchers and analysts. They would provide a real review of the corporate give-away-program that is costing Connecticut taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
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?
1) Today, it is impossible to leave work to care for a new born, a sick family member or health emergency. One proposal would be to follow NY State's lead. It would be financed entirely through employee contributions starting at approximately 70 cents per week and rising to approximately $1.40 when full benefits kick in. Employees would ultimately receive two thirds of their weekly pay while on leave, up to a maximum of two thirds the state’s average wage. The two thirds wage replacement cap will particularly help lower-income workers.
2) For paid Family or Medical leave, both the Employer and Employee needs certain protections. Those jobs usually can not remain unfilled for 12 weeks. Currently, if the employer hires someone for 12 weeks and than lets them go, their unemployment tax will increase. The law must allow employers to hire and terminate for a specific length time determined at the time hiring without additional fines or judgements. New hires in a union shop under this proposal would not be required to join the union.
3) Flexible work arrangements: These include a) Compressed Four-Day Work Week, b) Telecommuting, c) Job Sharing.
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 we should have tuition free State Colleges. I also recognize the current financial crisis the State faces. I am not sure if the State can afford to begin the program, and it will take more analysis. We may be able to creates a last dollar program ( paying remaining tuition expenses not covered by federal aid, state aid ), designed to cover the price of tuition for resident students at all State community and four year colleges for recent high school graduates. Recipients would work with mentors, maintain continuous full-time enrollment, and meet community service requirements. This bill would create a trust fund using a portion of lottery revenues to fund the scholarship program. I am still investigating other possible solutions.
What would you do as a state legislator to address the opioid epidemic in our state?
The U.S Surgeon General has sent a letter to all physicians to educate them on the current opioid epidemic and instruct them in limiting their use of opioid prescriptions. The State needs to increase the number of beds in detox and rehab facilities, as well as make it easier, and respond immediately, when an addict requests help. Methadone clinics in the State are now also using Medical marijuana as a tool to assist in recovery. Expanding the use of Medical Marijuana.
No one decides that they want to be an addict. The root of the problem is often 1)lack of good paying jobs and the opportunities available out of poverty 2) a mental health issue. These issues must be address.
The criminal penalties for personal possession of both Marijuana and opioids must be addressed. Prison time that includes rehabilitation, assistance with housing and jobs upon release and/or counseling for personal use offenders is needed. (Non-addict sellers of drugs would not be included.)
I am also in favor of legalizing Marijuana for sale at certified Marijuana dispensaries with State Taxes collected. Having studied the reports from the States that have already legalized Marijuana, showing decrease in crime and other reassuring data, along with supplementing their State Budgets (using the Revenue for education), I am in favor of legalizing Marijuana for sale at certified Marijuana dispensaries with State Taxes collected.
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?
YES. What we face in retirement has been devastating to many in our Community. Seniors who have worked their whole life, raising their family in the home they purchased, believing they would be comfortable when they retire, are faced with escalating property taxes and home maintenance costs. They have borrowed against the equity in their home, until they now own more than they can sell their home. Faced with continued bills,and no way to pay, many have simply had to leave everything to the banks and move into city senior apartments. I believe there is more we can do to protect our seniors and allow them to remain in their homes if they wish. Seventy-five percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts. The specter of downward mobility in retirement is a looming reality for both middle- and higher-income workers. Almost half of middle-class workers, 49 percent, will be poor or near poor in retirement, living on a food budget of about $5 a day.
Who are you supporting for president and why?
I am supporting Jill Stein. As a Petition Candidate, and a registered democrat, I am free of having to support the two top dominate candidates. The Democrat Party, in reality has long ago stopped being the party of the people, and the Republican Party has strayed dramatically from its early radical roots in abolitionism, equality, and peace. Both respond to the wishes of Corporate power and money over the welfare of the American People.
I am also in line with the message and platform of the Green Party. Working for change to benefit people, our planet, and peace over profit, for canceling student debt, and for a Green New Deal that will revive the economy and turn the tide on climate change. I fully understand that she will not win, but my vote could also help get 5 percent of the national vote for the Green Party ticket which will be a game-changer for American politics. It will qualify the Green Party for recognition as an official national party. "Casting a ballot for the lesser evil in a corrupt and failing two-party system — which will only give us more of the same — is the very definition of a wasted vote".
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