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Westport's Legislators Reveal Their True Feelings On The State Budget

State Reps. John Shaban and Gail Lavielle talk with moderator Matthew Mandell from the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce at the legislative wrap-up.
State Reps. John Shaban and Gail Lavielle talk with moderator Matthew Mandell from the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce at the legislative wrap-up. Photo Credit: Roy Fuchs
Matt Mandell, CEO of the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce, takes over as moderator at the Westport Library.
Matt Mandell, CEO of the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce, takes over as moderator at the Westport Library. Photo Credit: Roy Fuchs
The five legislators, all lined up.
The five legislators, all lined up. Photo Credit: Roy Fuchs
Bonnie Stewart, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association
Bonnie Stewart, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association Photo Credit: Roy Fuchs
Sen. Tony Hwang
Sen. Tony Hwang Photo Credit: Roy Fuchs
Sen. Toni Boucher
Sen. Toni Boucher Photo Credit: Roy Fuchs
Rep. Jonathan Steinberg
Rep. Jonathan Steinberg Photo Credit: Roy Fuchs
Rep. Gail Lavielle
Rep. Gail Lavielle Photo Credit: Roy Fuchs
Photo Credit: Roy Fuchs
Photo Credit: Roy Fuchs

WESTPORT, Conn. — The five state lawmakers from the Westport and Weston area gathered to share their views on the just-completed legislative session in Hartford, spilling their feelings on the state budget.

Matt Mandell, CEO of the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce, moderated the legislative review, which was co-hosted by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and held at the Westport Library’s McManus Room on Tuesday morning.

Mandell called it “an open forum rather than a debate.”

To the five assembled legislators — state Sens. Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield, Easton, Newtown, Weston, Westport) and Toni Boucher (R-New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, Wilton) and Reps, Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport), Gail Lavielle (R-Norwalk, Westport, Wilton) and John Shaban (R-Easton, Redding, Weston) — he said, “None of you voted for the budget, yet it passed. What happened?”

Steinberg said he was one of 11 Democrats who voted against the budget. But after “improvements” were made during the Special Session, he supported the implementer, an omnibus bill that carries the full language of each law — though he called it a “hard vote.”

None of the four — all Republicans — supported the budget.

Hwang called it “a one-party budget,” and when Republicans offered their proposal “with a lot of solutions and shared sacrifices,” they were turned down. Lavielle added that “horrifying” tax increases led many of the state’s iconic businesses to say they are “considering leaving.” And Shaban said Connecticut “continued driving job-makers from the state.”

Boucher cited its $1.8 billion tax increase — the second highest in Connecticut’s history — as her reason for opposing the budget.

She captured Republican sentiment, saying that when one of her constituents recently moved to Florida, he went to the DMV to get new license plates. The clerk, while cutting his Connecticut plates in two, asked, “What is going on with Connecticut? All I’ve done in the last two weeks is just cut up Connecticut plates.”

Bonnie Stewart, CBIA’s Vice President of Government Affairs, said her group's interest is in making Connecticut more competitive, but noted the new taxes in the $40.3 billion biennial budget make that a “real challenge.”

Moving to transportation, Boucher applauded the governor’s 30-year, $100 billion program to improve all facets of transportation but wishes it were more rail-centric.

“Transportation is in crisis,” Steinberg said. But as he looked ahead to the years of construction ahead, he said there will be inconveniences. But as it gets completed, the entire state will benefit economically and individually, Steinberg said.

Hwang did end the meeting on an uptick, saying, “When people work together things happen in a positive way.”

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