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Letter: Wilms makes ECS funding No. 1 campaign priority

With the retirement announcement by House Minority Leader Larry Cafero, I launched my candidacy for the 142nd State Legislature, which includes Norwalk and New Canaan. Larry has been a giant in Hartford and achieved incredible acts of public service. It will be difficult for anyone to fill his shoes.

Serving in the Norwalk community, I have seen firsthand the problems that can only be fixed at the state level. These problems include a declining Connecticut economy, high property taxes, high state taxes, insufficient funding for our schools, and no job growth.

My very first bill will be to bring more ECS funding to Norwalk. As past chairman of the Board of Estimate & Taxation, my biggest frustration with the city budget was the ECS funding shortfall; treating Norwalk like we are Greenwich, the state shortchanges us by over $40 million per year. This increases Norwalk property taxes plus results in our schools getting less. I will support initiatives that hold promise of more ECS funding, such as the Connecticut Coalition for Justice lawsuit against the state. On a day to day basis, I will work to build coalitions with lawmakers to bring additional funds to Norwalk. If we do not speak up for ourselves, who else will?

Supporting new job creation will be a priority. Connecticut was the only U.S. state whose economy actually shrank in 2012. Small businesses account for about half of our private sector jobs, yet the deck is stacked against them. I support many of the reforms advocated by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA): accelerating the phase out of the corporate tax surcharge and reducing the unemployment compensation tax burden. Furthermore we need to scrap the business entity tax, speed up permitting, reduce reporting requirements and ease regulations. Even our Blue State neighbors New York State and Massachusetts recently reduced the tax burden on their small businesses. Connecticut, already near the bottom, is falling even further behind.

I will speak up for fiscal responsibility. Our next governor may face a budget deficit greater than $1 billion. Raising taxes is not the answer. Gov. Malloy did that and we still face deficits. Budgetary gimmicks are not the answer either. The only answer is to control spending.

One place to start is state employee retiree benefits. Over the past 20 years, state retiree health benefit (OPEB) costs ballooned 981 percent while pension costs grew 583 percent. Hartford could learn from the experience of Norwalk. Norwalk’s new union contracts require new hires to shift to defined contribution (401K style) pension plans, high deductible HSA medical accounts plus new OPEB plans. Current employees contribute more to their existing plans. If the state does what Norwalk has done, it can see significant future savings while still offering state employees fair compensation packages.

Another focus needs to be rebalancing long-term health care costs. Medicaid spending rose 180 percent over the past 20 years. I support the CBIA suggestions of providing home-based care when appropriate, expanding the use of non-profit agencies for services and increasing the fight against fraud.

As important as the issues are, nothing beats serving you – the voters. As your state legislator, if you contact me with a problem or question, I will get back to you right away. I will help you however I can. I will be a visible presence in Norwalk and actively engaged in the community.

In conclusion, I am aware any single legislator can accomplish only so much. However I promise this — I will bring my energy, my experience and my professionalism to serve you to the best of my ability.

Fred Wilms is a senior vice president at Webster Bank and a Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives, District 142.

Comments

3 responses to “Letter: Wilms makes ECS funding No. 1 campaign priority”

  1. Danny

    Well that was interesting, “the only solution is to,” wait for it, yes, “CUT spending.” Cuts in spending spurs growth? Really? And growth is influenced by what factors? Break it down for us economic simpletons. Oh yeah,to make a long long, long, very long story short. growth = jobs and revenue = growth = prosperity for all, well some, anyway. And cuts cuts and more cuts and privatization to vital services and cuts to long overdue infrastructure investments are smart do what to an anemic economy? Expand or contract further? Laying off more state workers and cutting pensions will do what, to a stagnant declining economy? Give it needed booster shot in the arm, or knock it off its footing completely? Privatize pensions? Isn’t that really already being done? Don’t they take pension funds and roll them eventually into gigantic hedge funds? Could there be more than a few Bernie Made-off, with the loot, wanna be’s, lurking about somewhere, in a dark fedora pulled down low and a rain coat, (a wall street gangsters hoddie), in a blacked out limo with the motir running, on a dark alley, near Wall Street in NY? Drooling? And how is all this savings with unions and pensions achieved? Does arbitration not play a role or is that another cut, to repeal and or defund arbitration and utimately to dissolve unions altogether? Cuts cuts and more cuts? Cuts in needed programs, cuts and privatization of service’s, cuts in regulations that protect citizens, workers and consumers our environment? Lets be real here, lets throw the DEEP and the EPA and the Clean Air and Water Acts up on that platform to be defunded or repealed also and while we are at it, do away with minimum wage, overtime, sick leave 40 hour week, holiday pay and repeal ancient child labor, all job killing policies. Fits that narrative right? But psst, don’t mention trickle down that didnt go over well nor mention doing away with workers comp or rolling it into Medicad, wont go over well with the insurance lobby folks upstate. Seen what happened with health care, right? Guess it all plays well for some that are not fully informed, easily influenced er, supporters. “The very first thing will be to introduce an ECS bill.” Being a newbie, if Mr. Wilms wins, perchance, what coalition can he count on for support beside the obvious which is not enough to pass committee no less a bipartisan vote and what exactly are the particulars of this new promised to be introduced formula? Introducing plans for changing ECS formula is not something that has not been examined and even attempted before. If one is going to use the ECS as a platform, well it is fair is it not, to see details rather than accepting pie in the sky promises? Been there and done that, haven’t we? As a financial professional, running on a platform to reform the ECS formula, is it not fair to request real numbers, precisely? The where, when, who and how? And speaking of education, does Mr. Wilms think everyone in town has such short memories? Under his leadership on BET Norwalk repeatedly had some of its largest historic record breaking BOE turn outs and protests when BET repeatedly cut the students/staff off at the knee caps and were going for the jugular. Might be an uphill battle to erase everyone’s memory cards. Maybe there is one of those “Men in Black” memory erasing flash pens Mr. Wilms can buy on the internet and flash everyone. They say you can buy anything, these days, on that internet. Mr. Wilms has stated over and over that he has maintained the city’s AAb rating, albeit with dubious rating agencies that are under federal scrutiny themselves for, well, racketeering, a spin on the protection racket, which, according to Mr. Wilms, maintains lower borrowing and bond costs, which is kinda true if you include a slew of other pertinent market conditions, some seen, some unseen, sooo, we can borrow millions for stuff like golf course’s and resurfacing at least patching, last years resurfacing that was torn up by the utility contractors due to new pipes fracturing from something no one thought off, ground settlement, while, we have three schools still in use that were built prior to World War 2. Which is also true. Anyone look at google earth lately and peek at London, Berlin, Hiroshima? These cities and many others were decimated during WW2 and today, well, look for yourselves. Entire nations that were obliviated have been completely rebuilt and Norwalk still has schools built and put into service during the New Deal, prewar, some 75 human years ago.
    how many generations is that? What does that say about priorities? Oh right, the ECS again, right? Mr. Wilms is displaying a bit of naivitey and appears to be pandering to a certain crowd that shall we say, perhaps, enjoy weekend tea consuming contests? Whether Mr. Wilms can run and win, solely, on a bean counter bankers record remains to be seen. There is more to it than just campaigns and budgets. Ultimately its about people. Isn’t it? That ideal often times gets blurred when one stares at numbers or misrrors for too long. A question comes to mind, now that uber conservative financial wizard Mr. Wilms has officially thrown his hat in, has he reached his pinnacle with his financial career? Or is there some other compelling reason to take a pay cut, besides his stated devotion to serving? Collecting a paycheck on that public payroll, he so despises, irony? Or is Mr. Wilms retiring from his illustrious note worthy financial career and pulling a Bloomberg and taking office for a salary of one dollar a year to share his financial wizardry with us mere mortals? Regardless, Mr. Wilms is appreciated and respected for his service to the town, as all that have served and will serve, however controversial. Right?

  2. piberman

    From time immemorial every newbee politico running for office has made a “fairer ECS” a center piece of their platform. After all who can resist promising a Herculean effort to deliver the “golden fleece” from Hartford to bolster BOE budgets and further reward our school teachers – 5th highest paid in the state. But ECS remains untouchable for well known reasons – it largely funds the school systems of the state’s 5 welfare cities: Hartford, New Haven, New Britain, Bridgeport and Waterbury. To be sure every school district in the state receives some ECS funding, even super wealthy Greenwich. As apples fall from trees Norwalk’s politicans do not get much of a hearing on ECS matters because when a City with median household income of just about $70,000 willingly pays its teachers the 5th highest salaries in the state no one wants to bail out Norwalk at their own expense.

    So its time for would be legislators to focus on more promising areas – ones they can influence.

    Of course, no one in the local politico scene can fill Larry Cafero’s shoes. Or replicate his knowledge base of the state’s budget gleaned over more than a decade. The real point is whether Democrats need another automatic vote in the Legislature or whether we elect someone who understands that there are conventional standards of prudent finance applicable to state governments and repudiates the Democrat super majority spending surge to satisfactory their public union supporters. Since all our curent Democratic legislators from Norwalk support the Governors’ peculiar (very peculiar) fiscal policies the choice of desired party affiliation is straightforward.

    Given his background as BET Chair (independent of whether or not he was his own man or carried water for Mayor Moccia) and his long service with City government Fred Wilms brings a stronger fiscal knowledge background to the table than of the current Democratic legislators from Norwalk.

    That by itself ought to generate some real enthusiasm for a decisive victory. Democratic voters who admire how the state is run can focus their efforts on re-electing Gov. Malloy. But all Norwalk voters who have any basic understanding of fiscal matters and budgets ought to enthusiastically elect an experienced citizen who understands finance and then some.

    Make our City proud and vote for demonstrated fiscal intelligence. Those whom we elect to Hartford ought to stand head and shoulders above those whom we elect locally. The well known failings of our state government are visible for the entire nation and have extracted an extraordinary exodus of people, jobs and business from CT. Electing competent legislators is the only avenue for improvement open to us.

  3. Casey Smith

    Right now, even as I type, there is a major lawsuit underway against the State regarding the ECS funding. Hartford managed to get the ECS cap removed after Sheff v. O’Neill, and New Haven apparently got around the cap, also. But the CJEF case has both Bridgeport and Norwalk among the plantiffs, so one of these fine days, the State is going to have to give an accounting of how it allocates the ECS funding.

    And yes, the State should cut some of the spending. They keep handing out unfunded mandates (i.e. the “orange juice” bill for preschoolers) and making people jump through hoops when half the time, the State hasn’t even finished the project. (Some of the State educational grant applications were being modified even as Norwalk was attempting to apply for them. Talk about a moving target.) Maybe if they stopped passing feel good legislation and worked at retaining businesses, we’d be in a better position.

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