After a former high school teacher contacted Sen. Kevin Witkos to accuse him of not supporting teachers, the state Senator from Canton decided it was time to “Tell the Truth.”
Dumbfounded as to how the high school teacher could have reached that conclusion Witkos asked for more information. The teacher, who remained nameless, sent him an email she received from the Connecticut Education Association, which asked teachers to thank legislators who voted in favor for the budget, even though it included a reduction in the Retired Teachers’ Retirement Fund.
Witkos explained that Republicans in the Senate offered an amendment that would have fully restored the state’s contribution to the fund. In the end, the state’s contribution was reduced from 33 percent to 25 percent and was part of the state budget approved without any Republican support. Witkos contended that teachers should be aware that an amendment was offered.
“It was distorted,” Witkos said. “I personally have had enough of the distortions.” That’s why he launched the “Tell the Truth” campaign to highlight at least three issues that he believed need to be explained to a larger audience.
Meanwhile, Democratic sources wondered how truthful Witkos has been in his own communications.
On Friday, Witkos sent out a press release applauding the state’s decision to release $387,000 to his community. “This funding will help Collinsville improve its infrastructure, help local businesses and build on the incredible resources already available to our residents and visitors,” Witkos said in the release.
The press release doesn’t say Witkos was the only Senator in 2011 to vote against the jobs bill passed during the October special session, which allocated funding for the Main Street project.
“If it was a subject matter that needed to be disclosed I would most definitely disclose it,” Witkos said. “Some of the things I personally don’t vote for here in the state of Connecticut are projects that pass.”
He contends that just because he didn’t vote for something doesn’t mean he shouldn’t inform his constituents about it through a press release.
He said he tells his constituents he hopes he made the wrong vote on a 2011 bill that approves funding for Jackson Labs, a genomic research facility that is being built in Farmington adjacent to the University of Connecticut Medical Center. The General Assembly approved $291 million in state funds for the private nonprofit laboratory on Oct. 26, 2011.
Witkos said he might not have voted for the funding but he hopes the project is successful because many of his constituents work up at the UConn Medical Center campus. He said the same goes for the Main Street project.
“I can justify every single one of my votes,” Witkos said.
He said it’s unfortunate that you can’t go line-by-line in a state budget and vote in favor of those things you support, but it’s a package that must be voted up or down.
He said he just wants everybody to tell the truth and sometimes the whole truth isn’t told.
“If it’s not me then somebody should be out there telling the truth,” Witkos said under questioning from three print reporters.
Witkos contended that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy didn’t inherit a $3.7 billion deficit from Republican legislators, who voted against budgets negotiated by the legislature’s Democratic Majority and former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell. He said Malloy continues to leave out that information when he talks about inheriting the deficit.
“I believe Gov. Malloy is disingenuous by blaming his predecessor,” Witkos said. “. . . That deficit was inherited and voted upon by a Democratic legislature here in Hartford.”
In the same breath he blamed Rell for allowing the 2010-11 budget to go into effect without her signature.
“Gov. Rell in my opinion caved,” Witkos said. “Should have vetoed the budget, but did not.” He was referring to the budget passed on Sept. 8, 2009, that he contends had a sort of detrimental domino effect on future budgets.
He added that Malloy is also being dishonest when he talks about the 2014-15 budget he just signed into law because it’s projected to have a $1.3 billion deficit in the future.
“If Sen. Witkos is so concerned with the truth he should start by putting it in his own press releases,” Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Malloy, said. “The state budget is balanced over the next two years.”
So far Witkos is the only Republican to sign onto his “Tell the Truth” campaign, but he invited other Republican and Democratic lawmakers to join him. The website is SenatorWitkos.com.
Asked if he was using what seems to be a public relations campaign as a platform to achieve higher office, Witkos said he’s going to seek re-election to his state Senate seat.