BRISTOL - Tolls, manufacturing and state mandates were among the topics as the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce held their annual Legislative Breakfast Wednesday.
Paul Lavoie, chairman of the chamber’s Regional Legislative Action Committee, outlined the five key legislative issues identified by the chamber - transportation infrastructure, comprehensive workforce development, child care incentives, spending reforms and regionalization and collaboration.
The panel of state legislators included Sen. Henri Martin, Rep. William Petit Jr., Rep. John Piscopo, Rep. Christopher Ziogas, Rep. Whit Betts, Rep. Cara Pavalock-D’Amato, Rep. Mark Remicco, Rep. Themis Klarides, and Sen. Joe Markley.
The panelists were asked to address how they would attempt to tackle these subjects this session.
Martin started the discussion by stating that focusing on how more manufacturing could help to jump start the state’s economy.
“Not everybody needs to go to college - some people can be creative and productive with their hands. There are 13,000 jobs today that don’t have industry trained workers to fill the positions. In five years, that number is expected to increase to 28,000.”
Petit then spoke up to discuss tolls, arguing that most who were in favor of them don’t do a lot of driving.
“Most people are 60 percent in favor and 40 percent against when it comes to tolls, but then when they hear the details it is more like 30 percent in favor and 70 percent against,” Petit said.
Ziogas said that tolls are an issue that should be talked about as an option for raising money to repair roads. He argued that Bristol, being in the center of the state, would be “immune to a lot of toll issues.”
Markley challenged Ziogas’ argument, saying that “any road with a number” would be affected by tolls.
“If you are making a 20-mile drive to Hartford five days a week, you could be looking at spending $2,000 a year on tolls,” he said.
Markley then brought up how the state shouldn’t mandate regionalization. He stated that the state should not be trying to force collaboration between suburbs and urban centers with “different sets of problems.”
“All that would translate to is taking money away from those who have it and giving it to those that don’t,” he said. “We should let the suburbs that are doing well do well.”
Pavalock-D’Amato then spoke and suggested that the chamber, rather than advocating for broad issues like “less regulation,” should attempt to identify specific legislation that was burdensome to businesses and take it to the legislature.
“Restaurants, for example, who apply for a liquor license and change categories currently have to pay the full fee all over again,” she said.
Betts said that legislators need to focus on changing the perception of Connecticut so that people choose to stay in the state and don’t move out.
“If we don’t stop this trend, we will be looking at a very different state,” he said. “We are already getting close to being broke. There is a strong push for a mandate that would require businesses to have to offer family medical leave regardless of their size and that is the sort of thing that drives people away.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.