NEWINGTON - State legislators met with local elected officials recently to provide an update following the General Assembly’s Regular Session.
State Rep. Gary Turco of the 27th House District and State Rep. Kerry Wood of the 29th House District addressed the Town Council to discuss progress made on issues and initiatives impacting the town, from a train station proposal and tolls to tax breaks.
Over the next two years Newington will receive an increase in municipal aid totaling over $1 million, most of which is earmarked for educational funding, they told councilors.
“We had a big deficit we had to deal with, but we did a good job of passing smart and strategic investments in our communities,” said Turco, whose district encompasses most of Newington.
It marked the end of their very first session in office for both Turco and Wood, along with State Sen. Matt Lesser of the 9th District - all freshman legislators.
“We have a great working relationship,” Turco added of the town’s contingent, which also includes longtime State Rep. Rick Lopes of the 24th District.
He went on to thank councilors for testifying in front of the General Assembly during public hearings this spring.
“We did a lot of bipartisan testimony together and it was a good show of Newington’s strength and greatness as a community.”
The most closely watched piece of legislation was the transportation bill, which failed to move forward but is expected to be revisited in special session before the year’s end.
This bill contained both a proposal for electronic tolling gantries on the state’s major highways - a topic of widespread controversy - and the plan for a Hartford rail line train station on Cedar Street in Newington.
Councilors have yet to come to an agreement on their stance on tolls. Republicans are largely opposed while the Democratic majority contends the number and location of gantries is still too uncertain to take a stand either way.
The problem lies in an estimated $800 million a year needed to repair and maintain Connecticut’s road infrastructure - money tolls would eventually serve to provide.
“The alternatives would be much worse for our pockets - a 53-cent rise in gas tax, an increase in income tax, less municipal aid and an increase in property taxes,” Turco told councilors of the potential funding sources for repairs.
“Maybe there’s a compromise where instead of 50 gantries there’s 10 to 15 gantries and some borrowing,” he went on to say. “Maybe it will be some hybrid and the Newington train station will be included.”
Councilor Gail Budrejko asked the legislators to identify areas of the budget where cuts were made in an effort to lessen the state deficit, now in the billions.
“Over the last eight years the state has made significant cuts; this year we were looking to stabilize things, which is why municipalities received an increase,” Turco said.
Wood pointed to “revenue-boosting tax cuts” that equal savings down the road, including a bill she headed up that gives state employees incentives to identify cuts in their operations.
“The tax breaks we pay for now will help stimulate the economy in the next five years,” she said.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or email@example.com.