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'Capitol Connection' -- The State of Our State

Last Wednesday, the General Assembly came together to celebrate the opening day of the 2013 legislative session.

From the Office of State Senator Kevin Witkos

Last Wednesday, the General Assembly came together to celebrate the opening day of the 2013 legislative session. New and returning legislators were sworn in to office and we heard directly from the governor during the annual State of the State address. It was an honor to have been sworn in for a third term of the 8th Senate District, and I must thank the people of the Farmington Valley and northwest Connecticut for continuing to support my efforts in Hartford.

During his speech, the governor mentioned several challenges facing our state and how the legislature could address these issues during the session. While we must focus on solving these issues, we also tend to debate how best to approach the solutions. This week, I would like to share with you some of what was discussed on opening day.

First, the governor referenced the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As I wrote several weeks ago, no one could have imagined such an event occurring in our state or anywhere for that matter. In the coming weeks and months, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission and legislative leaders will both be considering what steps could be taken to make sure that our children are safe. These steps will likely include legislation focused on mental health, school safety and gun violence issues.

Next, we heard about the major concern surrounding our state's finances, including previous pension and healthcare reforms. Despite these steps, the state budget is already projected to hit $1 billion in the next fiscal year. When the next two-year budget is developed in February, lawmakers will have to make smart decisions over how much we can actually afford to spend on the size of government. As a new member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, I am looking forward to supporting a more responsible state budget.

Third, the governor discussed economic development, including the First Five program and the Small Business Express Program. While these programs may have taken steps toward creating jobs in our state, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have also been invested in these programs. In the upcoming debate, I will be supporting legislation aimed at minimizing the tax burden on businesses and families.

Finally, he also referenced last year's education reforms and the steps that were taken to address the achievement gap, improvements to be made in energy policy, the important changes that were made to improve storm response capabilities and the potential economic effects stemming from the uncertainty surrounding the fiscal cliff negotiations.

These are only some of the major issues that are facing our state currently, and legislators will thoroughly consider numerous proposals in the coming months. The deadline to submit legislation is January 18th at 5:00pm. Next week, I will highlight some of the pieces of legislation that I will be sponsoring or supporting during the legislative session. As always, I encourage you to remain involved in the legislative process and to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Sen. Witkos (www.SenatorWitkos.com) represents the 8th Senate District, including the communities of Avon, Barkhamsted, Canton, Colebrook, Granby, Hartland, Harwinton, New Hartford, Norfolk, Simsbury and Torrington. He can be reached by phone at 1-800-842-1421 or by email at Kevin.Witkos@cga.ct.gov.

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