NORWALK, Conn. — Lowering the state's long-term debt is one of the issues that Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk/Darien) plans to tackle when the new state legislative session opens Wednesday in Hartford.
The state has gone for decades — from the 1930s to the 1980s — with unpaid debt, Duff said in a phone interview. "We are tens of billions of dollars in debt," he said of the state of Connecticut.
Lowering the amount of long-term debt is important, Duff said. "It's good for the growth of our long-term economy and it’s good for the next few generations,” he said.
Duff is also looking at reforming how the state funds education, especially after the state last week slashed $20 million in school grants , cuts that affect every town and city in Connecticut.
"I don't support the budget-cutting in education funding," he said. "We will look for ways in which we can work around it and see if there are ways to restore that funding."
Here are the amounts cut from the education grants for each town and city in Fairfield County:
- Bethel: $119,449
- Bridgeport: $250,000
- Brookfield: $126,295
- Danbury: $250,000
- Darien: $368,850
- Easton: $67,274
- Fairfield: $570,798
- Greenwich: $1,307,893
- Monroe: $134,966
- New Canaan: $339, 295
- New Fairfield: $95,053
- Newtown: $186,185
- Norwalk: $250,000
- Redding: $83,699
- Ridgefield: $234,100
- Shelton: $275,040
- Sherman: $34,351
- Stamford: $250,000
- Stratford: $250,000
- Trumbull: $266,792
- Weston: $118,045
- Westport: $443,947
- Wilton: $202,441
Duff added that he didn't know how the state decided on the cuts, which were made to balance the state budget.
When talking about education funding reform, he referred to the September court decision in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding vs. Rell. In this case, a judge found key elements of Connecticut's education system to be unconstitutional.
This court outcome could lead to better equity in state funding of local school districts, Duff said. “There is an opportunity here that could be beneficial for Norwalk and Stamford students. Having a better educational funding formula will help our children into the future.”
He added that Connecticut has high-tech and high-wage jobs, which offer great opportunities for today's young people. “We need to make sure that kids are college or career ready when they graduate," he said.
Another issue Duff said he plans to speak about at the legislative session is occupational licensing.
“We will be looking at whether or not the procedure to become licensed is cumbersome for people when they are starting a job or opening a business,” he said, adding, however, that there are some jobs where licensing is mandatory.
“We will be looking at ways where we can reform occupational licensing and break down barriers to entry but still protect consumers at the same time," he said.
He added that he is anticipating a productive legislative session.
“I think as majority leader it will certainly be an interesting session, but one that I am always optimistic about," he said. "I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”
Duff represents the 25th Senate District, which includes Norwalk and Darien.
The 2017 legislative session will begin at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 4, in Hartford.