Thursday, January 21, 2010

Colapietro Willing to Listen to Chamber

Well, folks, you can't count Tom Colapietro out. Word was that he wouldn't show at the chamber's annual legislative breakfast, but he fooled everyone, including me. He told me that he will attend the soiree next Tuesday morning at 8 at the Clarion. I'll be there, too. Here's a story I wrote about it for Thursday's Press:

BRISTOL -- When state lawmakers go back into session next month, city business advocates want them to focus on the budget and on ways to address the deficit, said Michael Nicastro, president of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce.
Nicastro said chamber members want to hear from the local delegation before the session starts, and will listen and ask questions at a legislative breakfast Tuesday.
“This is a short session legislative year,” said Nicastro. “We’re facing another deficit and it’s a re-election year for these guys.”
The upset in Massachusetts this week when a Republican won the U.S. Senate seat long occupied by Democrat Ted Kennedy shows that something is in the air, said Nicastro.
“There’s clearly a movement against incumbents right now. One election doesn’t tell it all,” he said, but added, “Something’s afoot.”
People are concerned about how their tax dollars are being spent, said Nicastro, and that includes business owners.
“We’re concerned about the budget deficit, how it’s going to get managed,” said Nicastro.
Lawmakers should continue important work on regionalization, Nicastro said, but he said it will take a long time to accomplish that.
What they can do now, Nicastro said, is reduce redundancy in government that carries a high monetary and efficiency cost.
The state’s got several different entities working on economic development, said Nicastro, including the Department of Economic and Community Development, the Connecticut Development Authority and Connecticut Innovations.
“They all have their own infrastructure,” said Nicastro. “Everyone’s got a marketing director. Everyone’s got a head of HR.”
That’s costly, and confusing for new businesses or business owners who are new to the state, Nicastro said.
“They’re not sure who to talk to,” said Nicastro. “The process should be streamlined. They’re all great programs, but in the end, they have to be run efficiently.”
Nicastro said the economic development isn’t the only realm where efforts are duplicated. State government has “too many fiefdoms,” he said, where the same is true.
Chamber members want to see action from lawmakers on transportation, too, said Nicastro.
“We can’t keep building highways. We need a transit strategy,” said Nicastro. “Wasting enormous sums on the busway is not a strategy.”
The proposed busway from New Britain to Hartford carries a cost of nearly $60 million per mile, said Nicastro.
Connecticut needs a good system to move freight as well as people, said Nicastro.
Getting freight onto trains and out of over the road trucks will save money and reduce congestion on the highways, Nicastro said.
In addition, Nicastro said, the state ought to put together a review board to look at the unfunded mandates that municipalities have to shoulder to see if they still make sense.
State Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican whose district includes Bristol, said he’ll be there. When he first took office more than a decade ago, Hamzy said, there were a lot of forums like this one, but now, there are only a few.
“It’s kind of a lot of work to put together,” said Hamzy. “That’s probably the central reason.”
State Sen. Tom Colapietro said he’ll be there, too.
“I know pretty much what they’re going to say,” said Colapietro, a Bristol
Democrat. “I’m willing to go and listen to ‘em again. Maybe they’ll come up with some new things.”
Colapietro said sorting out what to cut is taking time.
“If cuts must be made, they must be made compassionately,” he said, with a scalpel rather than recklessly with a meat cleaver. “Everybody wants us to cut, but not them.”
The legislative breakfast is at the Clarion on Tuesday, starting at 8 a.m.
Tickets are $20 in advance and are available at the chamber. They’re available at the door for $25.

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