This year I have visited with thousands of people in Westport, Wilton and Norwalk, and there is one overriding concern that almost everyone shares: their financial security and the state's economy. People tell me that they can't keep cutting back in their households and businesses while government keeps spending more and services don't improve.
Connecticut faces severe financial and economic challenges. Despite last year's record-high tax increase, fiscal 2012 ended in deficit as revenues fell short, spending increased, and savings didn't materialize, while the state borrowed to pay operating expenses.
With unemployment hovering around 9 percent, Connecticut hasn't netted one new private sector job since 1989, while population has remained flat, state spending has increased by 52 percent, and residents have been dealt one of the country's heaviest combined tax burdens, the highest debt per capita, and the highest rate of unfunded liabilities. We are losing people and jobs to states with lower taxes and more business-friendly environments. Meanwhile, we have the country's largest educational achievement gap, and our transportation infrastructure sorely needs investment.
I believe, however, that we can restore jobs and prosperity to Connecticut. How? The legislature must rise above politics to do what's best for its constituents. This year and last, we passed constructive bipartisan bills on education, energy, and job initiatives. We can do it again to restore Connecticut's business climate and financial health.
I am ready to be a leading voice for our district in this collaborative effort. I have a record of leading in tough times and working across the aisle.
Before my election to the General Assembly, I worked in the private sector for more than 20 years in executive leadership roles, including CEO of an Interpublic Group subsidiary and Senior Vice President of Suez Environment, where I managed people in 32 countries. I've hired and developed staff, served clients, built consensus to solve problems, and balanced budgets and kept people employed during recessions. As a member of both Wilton's Board of Finance and Energy Commission, I've worked to streamline local government while preserving essential services and the town's AAA rating. Thanks to these experiences, I understand the needs of businesses and municipalities. They also taught me the value of diplomacy and gave me the gift of an open mind.
Last year in Hartford, I helped to craft a no-tax-increase budget that preserved funding for education, towns, and essential social programs, rescinded more than 70 tax and fee increases, cut spending by more than $1 billion, and reformed state employee compensation and benefits. I am eager to revisit these ideas with colleagues from across the aisle. If we reduce spending, pay off debt, and adopt more favorable tax policies to increase consumer demand, attract businesses, and help them grow, we can change the state's direction.
I also worked to pass bipartisan bills that capped increases in our precariously high gasoline tax; supported small business growth and workforce development; protected open space; helped young people buy a first home in Connecticut; and helped seniors remain in their homes. I built a bipartisan coalition that pushed to require rail fare increases to be used for transportation purposes. I helped stop a raid of the purposes. I helped stop a raid of the Energy Efficiency fund and the reintroduction of tolls. And I fought to ensure that the concerns of our teachers, school board members, administrators, parents, and students were addressed in this year's education reform bill. I also worked with Westport's educators and Board of Education to craft a mandate relief proposal for high-performing school districts.
My work in supporting small business, protecting open space, improving mass transit, and restraining taxes and healthcare costs has been recognized by endorsements from the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Connecticut Realtors, Connectiut Doctors for Good Medicine, Sierra Club, and League of Conservation Voters, which also named me an "Environmental Champion." I received the Tip of the Cap Award for legislative leadership in education, and was named "Woman of the Year" by the Fairfield County Homebuilders & Remodelers Association.
This past year, while I've been working to learn as much as possible about Westport, I've been deeply touched by your welcome. As your State Representative, I will commit all my energies to listening to your concerns and making sure your voice is heard in the state House. I will continue working in a bipartisan manner to support and protect Westport and all the communities in our district. It would be my honor to continue to serve.