Lavielle, O'Dea place highest priority on state budget

State Reps. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Tom O’Dea (R-125), who are running unopposed for re-election this fall, said they are doing so because they have “more to do” and “more to offer.”

“Connecticut has everything you would want — the policies just haven’t been good,” said Lavielle, “and there is nothing wrong that good policy can’t fix.”

O’Dea said serving as a state representative has been “one of the most difficult but enjoyable jobs” he’s ever had, one he truly enjoys and is honored to do.

“It’s a privilege to represent the 125th District,” he said. “It’s just an amazing place to live and it can be so much better.”

Lavielle and O’Dea, who were first elected in 2010 and 2012, respectively, both said the state’s budget is among their top priorities.

“All of the pressing issues are really rooted in the very precarious state of the state’s finances,” said Lavielle.

From taxes and businesses to schools and transportation, Lavielle said, the state’s “dire financial shape” affects the everyday lives of Connecticut residents.

“All of these are rooted in the terrible mismanagement of the state’s finances, and it has to be fixed,” said Lavielle.

“What happened to Wilton last year with that immense, last-minute cut was because of the irresponsible management of the state budget.”

Taxes


Lavielle and O’Dea said Social Security income tax is high on their radar.

When he first came into office, O’Dea proposed getting rid of the tax on Social Security.

“I still want to do that,” he said.

Although it would cause an approximate $25 million loss in revenue, O’Dea said, it would “certainly be a positive change.”

Lavielle said she would like to see the state phase out, “as quickly as possible,” not only the tax on Social Security income, but estate and pension income taxes as well.

“I think we have to do that to make it possible for and desirable for people to stay in Connecticut to retire,” she said.

“I really think that that’s fundamental. The taxes are very high for people — particularly retirees. People cannot afford to retire here.”

Lavielle said the state’s “two huge tax increases” in 2011 and 2015 have been “huge burdens to everybody,” and people are not able to save enough money to retire in Connecticut.

When it comes to taxes, O’Dea said, his focus will also be on decreasing taxes on businesses and individuals, which will require a decrease in the state’s “out-of-control” spending.

Business


When it comes to businesses in Connecticut, Lavielle and O’Dea both want improvement.

“As the Sikorsky situation has shown us, the business climate in the state of Connecticut is toxic, and we need to address that,” said O’Dea.

“Not only for the big companies like Sikorsky but small businesses as well.”

O’Dea said he sees support “across both sides of the aisle” when it comes to improving the business environment in the state.

Right now, Lavielle said, Connecticut is not an attractive place for businesses, and she would like to see the state form a “sound or defined economic development policy.”

“You do see businesses coming here occasionally, but Connecticut is never the top of anyone’s list when they’re looking for a place to open, start or move their business,” she said.

“That’s why sometimes you see the state backed into these emergency situations … but it shouldn’t be. We should have an attractive economic development policy for businesses across the board.”

Lavielle said she would also like to see the state adopt a more attractive tax and regulatory structure for businesses.

“That may mean some pretty low taxes for any new business that comes to the state for a limited period of time,” she said.

“That will increase the tax base and make it more economical for everyone to operate their business here, including people who are already here.”

Education


As a ranking member of the Education Committee, Lavielle said, education is another focus area that is “very important” to her.

“I spend a lot of time on that, and I think for Wilton,” she said, “the biggest issue is getting these mandates off of our school system.”

As she’s proposed in the past, Lavielle said, she would still like to see mandate relief for both schools and towns, which include “things the state requires towns to pay for but does not provide any funds for them to do it with.”

“That would certainly take some of the pressure off of, for example, Wilton’s budget,” she said.

“When I speak to people, they would really like to see the state stay out of the school district’s business, because Wilton and many of the towns around here do very well, and these mandates are just pulling them back.”

Transportation


When it comes to transportation, Lavielle said, she would like to see funds set aside for transportation protected from diversion.

“They need to be used for transportation,” she said. “We’ve got to make sure that we are investing adequately in transportation infrastructure.”

Lavielle, a member of the Transportation Committee, said she will “continue to push hard for legislation to invest in improvements for the Danbury line.”

“The performance on the Danbury line is unacceptable and has been for a long time,” she said. “It continues to be unacceptable, so I will continue to push hard for that.”

In September, Lavielle circulated a petition to stop the proposed 5% rail fare increase for all Metro-North and Shoreline East trains, which would take effect Dec. 1.

“Nobody wants to pay more in taxes or fees to get to their job, and we’ve got to encourage people to take the rails,” said O’Dea, a ranking member of the Transportation Committee.

“That being said, we also need to make sure they’re safe,” he said.

“While my initial reaction was probably the same as everybody’s — I’m against an increase — I do know that we need to improve the safety and speed of our rail system.”

O’Dea said he wants an explanation from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Metro-North detailing “why they think the increased fares are necessary.”

He also wants to know how the DOT and Metro-North will have the money go directly toward increasing the safety and speed of the rail and “not simply going to administrative costs” that O’Dea said he thinks are “already too inflated.”


Lavielle represents most of Wilton, eastern Norwalk and part of Westport. For more information, visit cthousegop.com/gail-lavielle.

O’Dea represents New Canaan and parts of Wilton. For more information, visit cthousegop.com/tom-odea.