HARTFORD – Republicans pitched tax cuts, a stronger parental voice in education and changes to police accountability and affordable housing laws in a press conference on Wednesday highlighting a campaign platform for party candidates running for seats in the State House.
Republican legislators who spoke at the conference emphasized proposals to lower taxes, including indexing income tax brackets, decreasing the income tax from five to four percent for families making less than $175,000 per year and increasing the property tax credit from $300 to $500.
The tax cuts would cost approximately $700 million, according to State Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford. He said the cuts could be funded through the surplus this year, and that the Republicans believed they could keep the cuts going in the future by continuing to generate revenue through things like paying down the state pension debt.
State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, said that the state had a “record rainy day fund” that they could dip into to provide the tax cuts. Cheeseman said the state had a surplus of $4.3 billion last year, with a projected surplus of $2.3 billion this year.
“I know my colleagues are hearing as we talk to the voters — is just how unaffordable their lives are at the moment, whether you’re talking about renters who’ve seen their rent bills double and triple, whether you’re talking about someone at the supermarket who is stunned to be paying $5 for a dozen eggs,” she said. “We have a record rainy day fund. Our residents have noticed it’s really raining. Now they’re drowning.”
Republican speakers also reiterated a call for changes to how juvenile crime is addressed, including transferring juveniles to adult court in the case of crimes such as those involving a firearm, when they result in serious harm to another person or violent sexual assaults. The speakers also said that criminal cases should be heard in the district where the crime occurred rather than in the defendant’s home district, that additional violent crimes should be ineligible for record erasure and that the punishment should be increased for people who commit crimes using a stolen car or weapon.
They also expressed a desire to revisit the Police Accountability Law passed last year, particularly regarding the provision limiting qualified immunity.
“I talk to cops every day, probably more so than anybody else up here. And they all tell me the same thing: that they’re nervous,” said State Rep. Greg Howard, R-Stonington. “At the end of the day they’re concerned, and they’re concerned because decades of training has changed.”
Howard said that he wanted to see a bill similar to what California passed in 2019, which redefined when a homicide by a police officer is considered justified and which limited when a police officer is permitted to use force to a narrow series of circumstances.
The legislators also pushed for greater control at the local level, including a proposal to include apartments that are not deed-restricted to affordable housing in a town’s count of affordable housing units for the purposes of the state’s affordable housing law, 8-30g.
“[Democrats] want to override important local planning and zoning decisions for housing and other types of development, and threaten our municipalities with the loss of state funding,” said State Rep. Tami Zawistowski, R-East Granby. “This includes forcing what they call affordable housing — which really isn’t — into towns where existing housing stock is already affordable or where soil conditions and site conditions do not justify housing density. They also impose costly mandates on our cities and towns without providing the funds necessary to them, which raises property taxes.”
Several legislators also discussed wanting more parental input in the school system. The Republicans are proposing the appointment of two parents — one from a school district with fewer than 1,000 students and one from a district with greater than 3,000 students — to the state Board of Education.
“Parents are our children’s first teachers and it is parents, not politicians and government bureaucrats that have the ultimate responsibility for their kids,” said State Rep. David Rutigliano, R-Trumbull.
“Parents need to be front and center when it comes to decisions about their family’s education and healthcare.”
The Republicans also said they wanted to require school districts to perform impact studies on any measures taken to address future public health crises. Candelora said he believed that if studies had been done to determine the impact of certain COVID policies on students, the state would have prioritized keeping the schools open.
“One of the things that Republicans had said all along is putting masks on children and closing schools – what is the impact on education? What is the impact on speech development?” said Candelora. “And now we come out of the pandemic and we are seeing that we have 40 year lows in test scores. I believe had those impacts been evaluated up against the real risk to COVID that the government might have made very different decisions.”
State Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme, called for improved services at the state Department of Labor, fewer fines on small businesses, a greater focus on lowering heating costs from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and a formal audit into the use of coronavirus relief funds in West Haven — not to mention changes at the State Pier project in New London.
“Maybe, just maybe, demanding answers at the State Pier — firing people at the State Pier, getting a new board and putting a hold on spending $250 million on a project that’s going nowhere. Let’s just call it the ‘Pier to Nowhere,’” he said.
Other proposals pitched at the press conference included requiring photo IDs at polling sites, expanding public comment periods at local meetings, reducing the state sales tax and requiring a two-thirds majority in the state legislature to approve new conveyance taxes.