Senate Republican Leader Calls Helping Lower Incomes a Priority for Next Session

State Sen. Kevin Kelly


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HARTFORD – State. Senator Kevin Kelly told CT Examiner that helping families battered financially by the pandemic while the state government has a historic influx of revenue will top the agenda for Senate Republicans in the upcoming legislative session.

“Upper income people are doing just fine during the pandemic. But if you’re at the lower end you’re getting hammered with inflation,” said Kelly, referencing spiking prices of groceries, cars, fuel and healthcare. “These are the costs that Connecticut families can’t sustain because we’re dead last in the nation in job and income growth.” 

With an avalanche of tax revenue from Wall Street gains, a record-setting Rainy Day Fund of $3.1 billion and more billions in federal funding coming for infrastructure improvements, Kelly says it’s time for government to ease the tax burden on residents.   

“The Connecticut family continues to fall behind with the current economy and leadership and we need to get them some relief,” he said. “If the economy isn’t allowing them to get it themselves then the government needs to step in. We have the tools to make life easier and my question is why aren’t we?”

Kelly, a lawyer who represents Monroe, Seymour, Shelton and his hometown of Stratford, said his views on helping lower-income families were shaped by his 14 years as an investigator at the state Department of Social Services after graduating college. 

He decried what he called lax oversight of the handling of federal Covid-19-relief funds that were in part designed to help those residents who may have been disproportionately affected economically by the pandemic.

Kelly cited the recent arrest of a West Haven State Rep. Michael DiMassa on charges of stealing more than $600,000 in those funds that were given to West Haven.

“The federal government trusted our state to help families with shelter and income assistance and food insecurity,” Kelly said. “But somebody cut the line and yet there’s no legislative response to have a public hearing,” on the issue. “We should want to find out if this happening anywhere else, but the Democratic leaders don’t want to hear about it.”

Kelly and other Republican lawmakers have called for an audit of every town’s handling of the funds, which he said has so far been met with “crickets.” 

He’s said that he is also concerned about the oversight and execution of another nearly $6 billion of federal infrastructure-improvement funding expected to flow into the state beginning next year to fund such major projects as widening I-95, especially in bottleneck-plagued Fairfield County.  

Kelly questions the Department of Transportation’s ability to hire enough new staff to handle the new work, especially an expected need for more than 300 design engineers.

“Where’s the five-year plan and when will the projects start with actual shovels in the ground?” he asked. “We’re going to get this historic windfall and if we’re not working on it now we aren’t going to have the skillset or the supplies that are needed. We’ve got to get the boots on the ground and the state needs to start hiring that talent yesterday.”

Kelly said his caucus also will work to try to make sure that the infrastructure projects that are funded incorporate measures to reduce their impact on the environment. 

He said that an emphasis should be placed on getting more cars off the highways by improving mass transportation, and especially rail service in the southwestern end of the state and the Waterbury area.

“As we implement these projects we should be looking to put labor to work but also to reduce our carbon footprint wherever possible,” Kelly said, referencing how vehicle emissions at jammed highway choke points directly impact the health of the adjacent residents, mainly in urban areas “that actually sit at the tailpipe.” 

Noting that this year’s legislative session, which runs from Feb. 9 to May 4, will be held just months before a statewide election, Kelly said the Republican’s job is to present concrete, life-improving alternatives to the rule of Democrats that control both the House and Senate, as well as the Governor’s office. 

“It’s incumbent on us to show a better way because I think the Democrats are too comfortable because they control every level of government right now,” he said. “Has that worked for Connecticut families? I think the answer is no.”

Steve Jensen

Steve Jensen was a journalist for 13 years with the Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer of Manchester before becoming a Communications Director for the State of Connecticut. Jensen covers politics and law enforcement for CT Examiner. T: 860 661-6404