HARTFORD, CT — A week after Democrats spelled out their priorities for the current legislative session, Republicans answered Wednesday with their own proposals which they said encourage economic growth through public-private partnerships and make transportation projects a priority.
“The legislation we are highlighting today creates opportunities for economic growth, financial stability, and reducing the cost of government,” Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said at a Legislative Office Building press conference.
Bills the Republicans championed at the press conference include one that would have the Commissioners of Social Services, Developmental Services, Children and Families and Mental Health and Addiction Services contract for the delivery of human services through a “public-private partnership council.”
Another Republican priority would be transportation, where the party wants to require state Department of Transportation of Commissioner Joseph Giulietti to submit an annual list of prioritized transportation projects to the General Assembly.
“By prioritizing investments in transportation, we can be more competitive with other states and create an environment conducive to economic growth and better quality of life,” Fasano added.
The priority list would be an improvement from the “mish-mash of projects” priority list that is currently in place, according to Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, a member of the Transportation Committee.
Another Republican priority is to “promote efficiencies by privatizing services at the Department of Motor Vehicles.”
Fasano gave an example: “Why can’t we allow car dealers to register (new) cars,” he said, instead of having to do redundant paperwork at the DMV. That’s just “one example” of how the DMV paperwork logjam can be tackled, he said.
Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont will propose extending the time between driver’s license renewals from six years to eight years, and the time between registrations from two years to three years in order to provide drivers some relief.
Democrats, bolstered by an election that put them firmly in control of the Senate and House, last week came out in support of several progressive proposals, including a $15 minimum wage and paid family medical leave.
“I understand the Senate Republicans are holding a number of press conferences in response to the rollout of the Senate Democratic agenda last week,” said Senate President Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven.
“I look forward to seeing the full details of all of these proposals and to working with Senator Fasano and his Republican colleagues on public policy,” Looney added. “As I noted to Senator Fasano in a letter last week, the General Assembly is at its best when members from both parties are working together.”
Even though the Democrats are firmly in control of both chambers and there is a Democrat in the governor’s office, Fasano was upbeat about the possibilities for bipartisanship in the upcoming months.
Referring to Lamont, Fasano said: “This governor has reached out numerous times — that’s a fundamental way to building relationships. He’s very straight-forward,” a trait that Fasano said he likes.
Fasano referred to the deal Lamont brokered — and which the House and Senate easily passed — allowing the state of Connecticut to back interest-free loans to federal workers impacted by the recent federal government shutdown.
Under the agreement non-essential workers, as well as essential federal workers who were required to report to work without pay, will be able to obtain interest-free loans provided by banks or credit unions. Those loans will be backed by the state.
“The public-private partnership shows there is common ground,” Fasano said. “The fact that he is thinking this way is a change. We saw that with the bank issue.”
Fasano said he also understands, and concurs with the governor, on Lamont’s recent comments about the state’s need to go on a “debt diet.”
Lamont told the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce Tuesday that he plans to spend $500 million less every year on borrowing than his predecessor.
Fasano said that Lamont is right on the issue even if it means that some town doesn’t get money for its favorite “park project.”
“We have to prioritize our bonding, we have to hold back,” Fasano said.
“We’re on a diet — we have to skip that dessert,” Fasano said, referring to Connecticut’s need to seriously tackle its multi-billion dollar budget deficit.
Although Fasano likes, at least so far, what he sees in the Democratic governor, he said he won’t be attending a reception at the residence Thursday night. Lamont has invited the Republican caucus to a cocktail reception in what he is calling an “informal meet and greet.”
“I’ll be having dinner with my wife of 33 years,” said Fasano, pointing out that Thursday is also Valentine’s Day.