Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides and Deputy Minority Leader Vincent Candelora (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — When the 2019 session opens today there will be fewer Republicans than in the past, but that doesn’t mean they are going to change their message.

House Republicans, who saw their numbers shrink in the last election, vowed Tuesday to maintain their singular focus on Connecticut’s fiscal health and the state budget.

“Our vision is the same,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said Tuesday at a state Capitol press conference. “We have a huge deficit. Those deficits are not stopping and unless we get that straightened out none of these issues matter.”

The state is facing a $1.7 billion deficit in the upcoming fiscal year and a $2.3 billion deficit in the following year.

The expanded Democratic majority and Gov.-elect Ned Lamont want to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour and implement a paid Family and Medical Leave system for the state. Electronic highway tolls, sports betting and legalizing marijuana are also at the top of the agenda for many in the Democratic majority.

But Klarides said there won’t be anyone left in Connecticut to smoke the marijuana, gamble, use the bus or benefit from changes in work policy if lawmakers don’t work together on straightening out Connecticut’s fiscal problems.

One of the proposals Klarides made Tuesday was to eliminate some of the buses that aren’t at capacity on CTfastrak  , the nine-mile rapid busway between New Britain and Hartford.

Klarides said it’s by no means a solution to Connecticut’s transportation problems, but it’s an idea they wanted to share. She didn’t have a dollar figure associated with cutting some of the buses, but said if the state is looking at implementing tolls then it needs to find transportation funding by reducing operating expenses for public transit.

Klarides added that Republicans are open to having a conversation about eliminating the gas tax if tolls become a reality.

However, she said Democrats have said they want to lower the gas tax if they approve electronic tolls, but “we know that they don’t mean that.”

“It’s never enough with these people,” Klarides said. “It’s always lets spend more, let’s borrow more, let’s make something bigger and we never look at what we’re doing and if it’s working.”

Klarides said she would hope Lamont keeps his word to hear ideas from all sides and that Republicans continue to be at the table.

Democrats expanded their majority to 92-59 in the House and 23-12 in the Senate. However, two Democratic lawmakers in the House and three in the Senate won’t take the oath today. Instead, they will go work in the Lamont administration and special elections will be held that could alter the numbers only slightly.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, sought maintain a good working relationship with his Republican colleagues Tuesday even though they may not always agree.

“This is a great time of opportunity for our state and I know all legislators, Democrat and Republican, are committed to helping improve the quality of life for everyone in Connecticut,” Aresimowicz said. “The new legislature has a great combination of fresh faces to go along with the experience necessary to make positive change, and I appreciate the minority leaders’ comments on their openness to working together on a number of important issues such minimum wage, paid family leave, and tolls.”

Republicans lay out legislative agenda ahead of inauguration.

Posted by on Tuesday, January 8, 2019