Duff: Proud of work on bipartisan budget

State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) leads the Norwalk Democratic Town Committee festivities briefly on Election Night at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Andrew Shukovsky, a Wilton resident, is volunteering with NancyOnNorwalk.

Andrew Shukovsky, a Norwalk Community College student majoring in journalism, sat down with State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) recently for an interview. Here is a transcript:

Shukovsky: All right. So what specific role did you have in the negotiations for this budget?


Duff: Well as majority leader, I was one of the six to eight people in the room for the last few months, negotiating the budget, and working to get to a compromise that the majority of the legislators would agree to and the governor would sign.

Shukovsky: Okay. Can you give us a sense of what the discussions were like? What the back-and-forth negotiations were like?


Duff: Okay, well I’m really proud of the role that I played in having this become a bipartisan budget. I think it’s easy to have a bipartisan budget when there’s a surplus and everybody can kind of divvy up the extra money. It’s very difficult to get to a surplus when… I mean to get to a bipartisan budget agreement when there’s a deficit, especially the kind of deficit we had this year, when you have to agree on the types of cuts and the types of tough decisions that we had to make. So I think in general, I’m proud of the fact that we were able to do that. The Republicans hadn’t voted for a budget in ten years, and this was arguably one of the most difficult budgets we faced. So… a lot of give-and-take, a lot of back-and-forth, some decisions that not all of us are pleased with, but in the spirit of compromise you do that, and we just needed to move the state forward and have a budget.


Shukovsky: Alright. Um… How do you personally feel about the budget plan that was passed?


Duff: Well I voted for it. I helped negotiate it, so I support it, and you know there are things in there I don’t like, things in there I don’t agree with I would’ve changed. If it were my decision alone I would have made some different decisions for sure. But again, in the spirit of compromise, in the spirit of trying to get the majority of a hundred and eighty-seven legislators to agree on something, and also one that the governor would support, it was necessary to make various compromises. But all in all, I think it’s a good budget, one that will move the state forward and pays its obligations, especially in our pensions, but will also continue our investments in areas that are important to the state.


Shukovsky: All right… as far as you know, how do you think the budget plan will affect the colleges of Connecticut?


Duff: Yeah, certainly it’s going to be a little tough for higher education, but as Democrats, we fought very hard to reverse the cuts that were in the Republican budget that the governor vetoed. It was very important for us to restore a good chunk of funding that had been cut in their budget, especially for places like Norwalk Community College, or Housatonic Community College, and UCONN. One of the best areas that we can make investments in right now in the state of Connecticut is in higher education. We have lots of jobs that are opening up here, but people need to have a good education. We have one of the most talented and the most highly educated work forces in the nation. We need to continue to push forward in that direction and we need to support that. So while I’m not pleased with any cuts to higher education, knowing our physical challenges, I think everybody understood there will be cuts. But there’s also, on the table right now for the board of higher education, board regents, to reorganize some things and that will save money as well. We want to make sure that whatever we do we minimize any impacts to students and their ability to obtain a high-quality degree from the state of Connecticut.


Shukovsky: All right. As Senate Majority Leader, do you have any plans to obtain more education cost sharing funding for Norwalk?


Duff: Well that was a huge victory for me in the budget this year, was finally having an educational funding reform in place for the first time in twenty years. That was something I had been fighting for for over a year now. Ever since the CCJEF v. Rell decision came down, I use that as a platform to have education fund reform and said many times, publicly and privately, that I would not support a budget that did not have education funding reform. So I think that that is, for us, for the long term, for the state of Connecticut, having a formula that actually helps our cities, helps students who are English language learners, helps students who are on free and reduced lunch, helps students who are in poverty, will go a long ways to make sure we have the most highly educated and best workforce in the nation long-term. And actually having a formula we can count on I think is extremely important because that had not been the case for a very very long time.


Shukovsky: All right. You heard straight from State Senator Bob Duff. I’m Andrew Shukovsky.


Donna Smirniotopoulos November 10, 2017 at 8:25 am

When an elected official begins most of his sentences with “well”, you know you’re in trouble. But a string of “wells” followed by “I’m prouds”…….well, that’s just like heaping manure on top of guano. Duff has had 16 years to restore balance and common sense to the ECS. He didn’t need the CCJEF v. Rell decision for motivation. And his continued falsehoods regarding cuts to NCC in the original bi-partisan budget that Malloy vetoed are disturbing. Never has a man been so proud of his mediocrity.

God help us if Duff is considering a run for governor and we have another Election Day fueled by anit-Trump anger.

Bruce Kimmel November 10, 2017 at 8:59 am

If the above comment passes for political commentary in Norwalk, heaven help us. Trashing public officials with this kind of language is disgraceful.

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 10, 2017 at 9:14 am

@Bruce Kimmel, help me out then and please explain what Duff has brought back to Norwalk over the past 16 years. Flesh out Duff’s comments on cuts to NCC—cuts the authors of the original bi-partisan budget denied were there. Explain why Norwalk still gets the short end of the stick on ECS funding. And while you’re at it, kindly define what you mean by “disgraceful” in the context of my comments about Duff vis a vis Duff’s own comments about how proud he is of his record of achievement for his constituents. I’m all ears. Prove me completely misguided in my assessment of Duff’s performance and his answers during this interview. Because what I think you’re characterizing as “disgraceful” is what I call a naked and candid assessment. Thin skin has no place in pubic service.

Rick November 10, 2017 at 10:04 am

It passes when we have public officials that are disgraceful.

When you read the comments thru out Ct on Bob Duff the one we read here so far is very conservative .

Norwalk is no lightning rod for political intelligence just political pandering.

If the majority of voters voted this last election ,things may have different , now we will hear thiose who didn’t vote were happy with who we had running.

We live in a city where most voters wouldn’t have a reason to find city hall, they are living in Norwalk not for the politics its a stop over to a better life.

Its after the election and the people have spoke ,you know like electing Trump everyone is suppose to be pleased with the peoples choice..

Norwalk cant have it both ways we saw a group of residents who for the first time saw how the city could make a mistake penalize taxpayers ruin many neighborhoods and call it progress.

Our senator from Hartford has earned much accolades , but with the voters who voted, what about those who could care less what performance is compared to real political hard work.

Yes Bob ha done well for those who vote for him, those who don’t know the track record simply could care less .

Whats wrong with Ct isn’t a Norwalk thing , GE didn’t leave Ct because of Norwalk or Bob Duff , mass exodus of students needing to find a work pool is not a Bob Duff or Norwalk issues , or is the fact Ct simply is not producing talent to supply big business.The renters of our city are , Norwalk is supplying the outsiders coming in too fill the last remaining jobs as in other cities close by the loss Ct is creating’

When politicians create problems so they can just fix them later seems counter productive, but if you look at whats going on the big pictures shows just that.

Lets just say for now our city is in trouble , we have great leaders and we have leaders.To think what has gone n over the last few years is progress then the ones who voted for change are wrong we owe people like you Bruce an apology.

But like most places on the map those changes or failures don’t come easy and don’t come fast. Yesterdays election is not gauged by winners it what the winners do to get us out of this mess.

Bob has had enough time to get us out if this mess,some would suggest he helped us into this mess.

As someone I respect Bruce ad an educator praising Mr Shukovsky is in order ,This student is working towards a goal and to come back and read the comments i will thank him and let him know he did a fine job with the article .

The problem is in Norwalk when most things done right or is good work for the general public happens it goes unoticed just like the election .No one lost over the election we all know what the problems are and voter absence was one of them.

@Donna you were good free speech travels a long way on NON , I had to remove myself from comments on the subject we all have our own agenda with Duff another time another article for now its time to thank those who have weighed in and wrote and hosted this article.

.Bruce If you have a connection with NCC you may of given the readers that option of knowing this ,it helps to read between the lines. Free speech like education is priceless.

I always take the time to thank Nancy she gives us all a voice , and you Bruce for picking up the phone one day to solve a problem that needed your expertise.

Thank you again Mr .Shukovsky you walked thru a field of land mines and did well i wish you well it is article like this others will use for a long time to gauge Mr Duffs work over the years. Your article will travel as it should it was good.

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 10, 2017 at 2:30 pm

Andrew Shukovsky did a great job with the interview. Also agree Rick that we owe Nancy and the board our thanks for the continued coverage and the opportunity to exercise our free speech here in the comments section, even if sometimes the result is an ad hominem attack. Ad hominem attacks often reveal more about the one lobbing the charges than they do the intended target. I respect Bruce Kimmel’s dedication to Norwalk and his obviously thorough knowledge of State and local education and local governance. I’m glad Bruce won election to the BOE. But if the intent here was to defend Bob Duff’s performance in Hartford, better to focus on Duff’s record of achievement.

For instance, I would be sincerely interested in a credible defense of the SEBAC agreement.

Claire schoen November 10, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Nice article, Andrew.
Perfect example of a community partnership, giving NCC journalism students a chance to test out their skills. Clearly NCC is doing a pretty good jos, at least in this case.
@donna Does every interview with a politician have to draw out nasty comments? Gets a bit tiresome, at best.

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 10, 2017 at 5:17 pm

@Claire, the only people who find the comments “tiresome” are the ones circling the wagons.

Skyler R November 11, 2017 at 7:42 am

Bob Duff is trying to rehab his reputation. He has done LITTLE for Norwalk. His track record is very short. He needs to quit posting traffic and weather reports and start working to restore the State of CT’s fiscal health. We have a long way to go. He might want to read up on how Rhode Island turned itself around … he can start by stop pandering to the unions

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 11, 2017 at 9:26 am

@Sklyler R, Bob Duff may be contemplating a gubernatorial run in 2018. Hopefully his full support of the SEBAC agreement, which includes a 4 year no-layoff clause and locks in pension and health benefits until 2027, will stick with voters. The SEBAC agreement was characterized as a union concession. In fact, existing state employees are very well protected under this contract. They left the hard work to their heirs. Personnel costs for CT are 6.6 billion dollars. These costs are dictated by union contracts and account for nearly 40% of the budget. Locking in for ten years on benefits and four on layoffs isn’t budget neutral. Most of us have to do the bulk of the contributions for our health care and retirement. So when Bob Duff says he is standing up for you, he’s actually standing up for SEBAC.

wineshine November 11, 2017 at 3:40 pm

What kind of language is that Bruce? I see nothing objectionable or “disgraceful” about the comment. Can you please publish a list of acceptable ways to describe someone who votes only party line, brings nothing innovative to the party after 16 years, grandstands endlessly, and is re-elected solely on the premise that “he seems like a nice guy”? What I find disgraceful is your objection to someone voicing their opinion in a civilized manner. Maybe you just had a bad morning.

Drewt November 12, 2017 at 9:32 pm

Clueless Bob running for Governor in 2018!?!?!!? WOW! And I didn’t think anyone could be a bigger joke then Malloy. WOW I guess I was wrong. I wonder if Clueless Bob would have a lower approval rating then Malloy? I guess anything is possible if he wins and unfortunately it would be an accomplishment of some sort. Bob has done so little for Norwalk its laughable! His record speaks for itself. And this tons of Press Releases he is spewing is not going to help re-build his reputation. In 2018 maybe he should consider running for Gov since Norwalk has had enough of Senator Duff.

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