FAZIO: Three steps to get Connecticut through the crisis

Submitted by Ryan Fazio, candidate for state Senate for Greenwich, Stamford, and New Canaan

In the face of great adversity, we often see the best in people revealed. That is the case during the present crisis, where the great character of our community has shone through.

In Greenwich, I saw over a hundred of my neighbors volunteer to deliver meals to the elderly during a time of increased need. In Stamford, I saw several friends organize deliveries of tens of thousands of donated masks to medics and first responders. And in New Canaan, I saw volunteers at their food pantry supply and distribute tons of food and basic goods to people in need. Those are just three standalone anecdotes, but they are indicative of our towns.

In the coming months and years, some health risks will persist, and economic problems will mount, and the state government will need to rise to the occasion like our people have already.

To do that, it should address the overarching crisis in three steps: First, crisis mitigation.
Second, targeted aid. Third, jobs, jobs, jobs.
The first step is to mitigate the crisis by safeguarding the public health and improving vital supply chains.

• Maintain certain physical distancing requirements until the number of new infections falls to low levels in late April or May

• At that point, judiciously ease toward normal life. Open businesses while making masks ubiquitous, testing and temperature taking common, stopping or avoiding large events, and continuing to protect and physically distance the elderly and sick

• The state government must be more transparent about COVID-19 data

• Eliminate single-use grocery bag bans, because reusable bags easily retain pathogens like coronavirus

The smarter we are now, the more lives we can protect and the more we can limit the massive economic costs. We also need to ease supply chains for medical care and vital goods by improving or easing onerous state regulations. We cannot accept empty store shelves or hospital bed shortages during high demand.

• Loosen hours and weight restrictions on truckers delivering food and supplies while roads are empty

• Eliminate Certificate of Need laws that require the state give express approval for the expansion of health facilities like adding more hospital beds

• Improve state payment terms for protective equipment providers

• Extend reciprocal licensing for out-of-state medical professionals for longer to ease the burden on our great medics

• Give pharmacists greater leeway to prescribe and refill basic, non-narcotic medications

The second step is to provide targeted, temporary aid to Connecticut families who are worst affected by the crisis.

Most of this effort will come from the federal government which can run budget deficits and print money, unlike the states. However, there are certain things that Connecticut can do to help improve the cash position of struggling employers and families.

• Reduce the penalty for late payment of property and sales taxes this year

• Cap unemployment insurance payments rating for businesses this year

• Expand eligibility for unemployment benefits and food stamps to include furloughed workers and contractors out of work for the second quarter

• Finance the impending budget deficit through the rainy-day fund and spending cuts only

The third and final step is to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in Connecticut quickly and foster economic prosperity for all. Unfortunately, we enter a new recession without fully recovering from the last one due to a state government that raised taxes by billions and overregulated workers and employers. To revive the economy, the Connecticut must take the opposite tack and reward work and job creation.

• No new taxes. Period.

• Better yet, eliminate income taxes on low-income families, cut them substantially on middle incomes and slightly on higher incomes. Expand the earned income tax credit. Lower-income workers will hurt the most in this recession

• Finance most of those cuts by reducing special deductions and exemptions in the tax code

• Finance the rest by freezing state government workers’ step pay increases and mandatory cost of living increases, increase their pension contributions, and find other savings while private sector workers are hurting

•Delay or eliminate newly passed regulations like the $15 minimum wage and paid leave payroll taxes that will kill jobs for those who need them most

• Reduce burdensome regulations on workers, like excessive occupational licensing requirements and fees

The government has moved in the direction of some of these proposals, fortunately, but will need to be bolder over the next two years. The people of our community have responded nobly to this crisis. Now the state government needs to show renewed leadership after years of disappointment. Hopefully, the above reforms will help make tomorrow a little brighter for Connecticut.

Ryan Fazio is a candidate for state Senate for Greenwich, Stamford, and New Canaan.

You can learn more about him at www.ryanfazio.com or on his Facebook page “Ryan Fazio for State Senate.”