Election 2018: Rep. Jonathan Steinberg runs on experience in looking to maintain hold of the 136th District
WESTPORT — A seasoned state representative, Democrat Jonathan Steinberg ascended to the state assembly’s 136th district seat, which includes most of Westport in 2010. A lifelong Westporter, Steinberg said he understands Westport values and can leverage his leadership positions in the statehouse to benefit residents better than his novice opponent.
As chair of the state’s Pension Sustainability Commission, Steinberg, a self-proclaimed moderate, said he will solve the state’s unfunded pension liabilities through a plan to donate state real estate assets as an in-kind contribution to its pension funds.
At the Chamber of Commerce debate last week, Steinberg, 62, said transportation infrastructure investment is his No. 1 priority and if re-elected, he’ll push to institute tolls to fund improvements to the state’s crumbling trains, bridges and roads.
What are your top three legislative priorities?
1. Establishing a sustainable state budget by addressing the unfunded pension liability (which I’m doing now with the Pension Sustainability Commission) and reforming union compensation through a “shared risk” model.
2. Prioritizing transportation infrastructure investment by supporting the Transportation Lock Box (on the ballot in November), focusing on replacing the ancient railroad bridges (the only way train speeds will increase) and congestion-pricing tolls to capture revenues from out-of-state drivers and truckers so we can fix deteriorating roads and bridges.
3. Creating lots of new, good-paying jobs by supporting growth industry sectors in which Connecticut is already a leader like bioscience and green technology; aligning education/training programs to prepare young people for the jobs that are currently available, and creating urban enterprise zones with mass transit, housing and amenities attractive to young people and which leverage new federal grants.
What experiences qualify you to represent the 136th Assembly District?
Growing up in Westport and coming back with my family has given me strong sense of Westporters’ values and priorities. Twenty-plus years as a marketing executive, working for companies large and small, have helped me understand how businesses thrive and how to keep them nimble and competitive.
Seven years on the RTM, three as deputy moderator, have given me the opportunity to work with others to address the town’s issues and prepared me to represent Westport in the General Assembly. Four terms in the Legislature, with increasing leadership responsibilities, have taught me the intricacies of the legislative process, provided opportunities to build relationships with colleagues from both sides of the aisle and critical stakeholders, and allowed me to champion successful legislation on gun reform, health care, the environment and the budget.
What is the biggest challenge facing the state?
The biggest challenge facing the state has to be the continued budget deficits, resulting from huge unfunded pension liabilities caused by decades of egregious negligence by both parties. I’m at the forefront of addressing the problem, without raising taxes or slashing spending, through my work as chair of the Pension Sustainability Commission. Its work is dedicated to pursuing a plan which will generate new revenues from underutilized state real estate and dedicate those proceeds to the pensions themselves, thus reducing the impact of current liabilities on the budget. It’s practical, legal and other states are watching Connecticut with interest.
Does Westport have a good relationship with the state government in Hartford?
Westport’s relationship with Hartford is fine, but could always be improved. Fairfield County legislators from both parties need to work more collaboratively to advocate for issues like transportation investment and affordable housing reform in Hartford. Westport also benefits from my growing influence as an experienced and respected legislator and my leadership of the Moderates Caucus, which played a crucial role in recent bipartisan budget deals and killing bad budgets. My opponent plans to continue commuting to NYC — the opposite direction of Hartford. Working full time out of state is completely inconsistent with the work commitment necessary to fulfill one’s obligations as a state representative. I treat this elected position with the seriousness it deserves — as a full-time job.
What political issue are you most passionate about?
First and foremost is budget reform, because it’s the one thing which will encourage people to move to or stay in Connecticut with their families and businesses. That’s why I spend so much time in Hartford working on it. But I also care deeply about protecting the people of Connecticut through quality, affordable health care, sensible gun reforms, rational environmental policy and social justice for all.