NEWINGTON – State money, sports betting and a train station were among topics of discussion for local legislators and town officials this week.
Newington’s legislative contingent met with the Town Council Monday night, an annual gathering that typically takes place at the beginning of the General Assembly’s budget session.
In attendance were State Rep. Rick Lopes of the 24th House District, State Rep. Gary Turco of the 27th District, State Rep. Kerry Wood of the 29th District and Sen. Matt Lesser of the 9th Senate District.
“There are obviously a lot of hot button issues at the Capitol this year,” said Lopes, the first to address the council. “Right now we are just digesting the governor’s proposals.”
While the state income tax is not likely to go up, he said, there are proposals that could affect sales tax on products and services.
Turco told councilors that municipal aid is projected to be relatively flat, with little change from last year. There is currently an $8,000 cut proposed for Newington, he said, but they’re working to get that funding reinstated.
Turco met with Department of Transportation officials recently to discuss the bill authorizing a $100,000 grant request to build a train station in Newington and another to help create a transit development zone around the site.
“The governor did say economic development projects would continue to be issued bonds,” he explained. “DOT is fully on board with the project as long as the money comes out of the bond bill. Even though they believe Newington is in a better strategic location than other communities, past resistance in town has put us lower on their list of priorities. We can work to change that together, and get Newington bumped back up.”
DOT officials expressed interest in working with the town on the site adjacent to CTfastrak’s Cedar Street Station, where plans call for a hotel and parking garage. An agreement could be made about maintenance and snow removal on Myra Cohen Way if this project moves forward.
“They think it will be beneficial to CTfastrak,” Turco added. “That is a place they want us to develop as soon as possible.”
Wood suggested the group return to the table later this spring to continue their discussion.
“We can do this again,’ she said. “I think we’ll have more to share as the weeks and months go on.”
Councilors took the opportunity to share several concerns, including legislative proposals to legalize marijuana and online sports betting as well as the recent uptick in car break-ins in Newington and surrounding communities.
“Do you support making reforms to the juvenile justice system to address this issue and if so, what are they?” Gail Budrejko asked.
Lopes pointed to loopholes in current laws that impose light penalties for teen larcenists, leading to repeat offenses.
“We definitely need to look at how we can better reform offenders,” Wood added. “There is no talking through or rehab on what they did wrong and how to get their life back on track.”
Tolls were also brought up, as serious consideration is being given to electronic gantries on the state’s main byways. Connecticut is the only eastern state that doesn’t have tolls, and it needs the transportation revenue, legislators agreed.
“It’s the only way we can stay competitive,” Lopes said.
Later on in the evening the council made adjustments to the town’s 2019-20 tentative budget, on what is traditionally known as “cut night.” The proposal reflects a .9 percent increase in town spending and a 2.36 percent rise in the Board of Education’s yearly allotment. As the spending plan currently stands, it would bring the mil rate to 39.41. A public hearing on the budget is set to take place next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Newington Town Hall. The council expects to vote on a final budget April 16.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or email@example.com.