Q & A with Nitzy Cohen
Editor's note: To give the community a greater sense of where the Republican candidates for state representative of the 136th District stand on certain issues, the Westport News posed a series of questions to each. Candidates were asked to limit responses to each question to 100 words. Here's what Nitzy Cohen, the Republican candidate who secured enough signatures on a petition to force the primary, had to say.
What qualities or characteristics do you think Westporters want in their state representative?
Being honest, straightforward and independent are paramount. In these uncertain times, having a state representative who cares about doing the right thing on behalf of his/her constituents, regardless of what party bosses in Hartford may want. Be honest with constituents about what is going on in Hartford. Give people the facts and explain the options.
How would you, as a Republican in a Democrat-controlled legislature, work to gain consensus in Hartford?
The question assumes that there is currently a desire or willingness on the part of the supermajority of Democrats to have "consensus." Currently there is an imbalance with 37 Republicans and 114 Democrats. This "supermajority" results in the legislature being "veto proof." The supermajority can rule with impunity and total disregard with disastrous results. The Democratic supermajority rejected the governor's responsible budget this year and substituted one which called for more spending, higher taxes and more borrowing. Until we have "balance" in the legislature there is no incentive for the Democrats to engage in consensus. Americans know that good government is "balanced" government.
Given the fact that environmental issues are important to Westporters, is there any specific environmental legislation that you would like to see passed or would like to propose?
Environment issues are very important to our quality of life. Connecticut already has extensive laws and regulations regarding environmental protection. Before automatically assuming that new legislation is needed, I would prefer that we assess the current enforcement of existing regulations and see what is not working and then proceed with legislation if there are unaddressed issues.
Affordable housing and senior housing tend to be highly controversial subjects during political campaigns, particularly as it relates to state statute 8-30g. What would you, as a state legislator representing Westport, do to balance the need for affordable housing with constituent's concerns about having a state mandate trump local rule? Should the law be repealed?
I will work tirelessly to repeal 8-30g, which does nothing more than allow developers to blackmail local zoning boards, and circumvent local zoning regulations. Each municipality and its elected representative should make their own decisions as to what affordable housing they need. I believe that we should have joint ventures of private and public entities to build affordable housing for seniors in Westport.
Can you provide two specific measures that can be taken to stimulate job growth in the state?
Reduce taxes and overhaul the massive regulatory bureaucracy. Businesses, small and large, can locate anywhere and Connecticut seems less and less attractive. Connecticut is ranked highest in total taxation, and has repeatedly been cited as one of the least favorable states to locate a business. If we want to see job growth, we need businesses to stay in Connecticut and locate to Connecticut. Under the current business environment businesses such as United Technologies, the largest private sector employer in the state, believes anywhere outside of Connecticut is lower cost and helps make them more competitive. In Connecticut, we have a legislature that is "anti-business" with more than 250 anti-business bills introduced last year alone. There are layers of overlapping, duplicative, burdensome regulations that are expensive, time consuming and difficult to navigate. Large companies have staffs of lawyers to deal with doing business in Connecticut. Small businesses and entrepreneurs, the growth engine of any economy, cannot afford to start up here, and go to more business friendly states. We need to streamline the regulatory environment to make Connecticut more competitive.
The economy has improved from its lowest point in late 2008, but many economists say that fiscal difficulties are far from over. What is your feeling on the state of the economy, both locally and in Connecticut?
I don't share the premise that the economy has improved. Unemployment is still hovering at 10 percent. In Connecticut, we have not addressed any of the issues that are negatively impacting businesses and taxpayers. The legislature keeps running deficits, increasing taxes, borrowing to cover operating costs, hiring employees and keeping state employee pensions and health care benefits at levels that are far out of sync with the private sector.
Connecticut is bleeding jobs, no company wants to come here and any company that can wants to leave or expand elsewhere. My fear is that when the national economy does recover, Connecticut will not share in the recovery as we are making ourselves less and less competitive every day.
Personnel costs are cited as one of the chief reasons behind Connecticut's billion dollar budget deficit. What can the state do to better manage these costs?
Decrease the size of state government and reduce the number of employees. Renegotiate union contracts including pensions and benefits. We can privatize many of the state functions, and while we will still incur a cost, the long term cost of the lavish state employee benefits will cease.
If balancing the state budget came down to raising taxes or cutting services, which would you choose?
The state of Connecticut is in a deficit condition. Our per capita taxes are already the highest in the country. Raising taxes is not an option. Raising taxes will push even more businesses and individuals to leave the state, decreasing revenues, jobs and stunting growth. Therefore, I will choose to cut services, and have an open discussion as to what are the essential functions of the state.