As Election Day approaches, Westport Patch is committed to keeping readers up-to-date with the latest news, announcements, and Letters to the Editor related to the town's candidates for office.
Patch sent five questions candidate's running to represent the 136th Assembly District in Westport. The following responses came from State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg.
1. Why are you running for office?
Everyone knows how much I love this town and how hard I’ve worked for Westport. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in my first legislative term – more than most freshman legislators get done. I have:
- helped write legislation that has led to energy savings in state building of millions of dollars annually,
- helped a small business, Yumi EcoSolutions, obtain critical Small Business Express funding,
- brought state grants back to Westport for the Levitt Pavilion and The Saugatuck Co-op apartments, and
- served on two taskforces (Shoreline Preservation and GMO) that directly affect the quality of life for Westporters.
With two years under my belt, I have a good feel for how things get done in Hartford, and I’ve established relationships with other legislators – on both sides of the aisle – which is essential to being effective in getting bills passed and securing funding. I always do my homework, come prepared to hearings so I can ask the tough questions, and will work with anyone to forge real solutions. Westport needs my kind of leadership in Hartford, someone prepared to persevere as an agent for change in a place that really needs it.
2. What skills do you have that can help you represent your district in Hartford?
- Leader: As many Westporters know from my years on the RTM and service on many town committees, I’ve been a leader. I was Deputy Moderator of the RTM and chaired three committees over my seven years, as well as chairing a number of town committees. I’ve brought that skill to Hartford, where I joined the Moderates Caucus and immediately played a role in promoting budget alternatives that would have minimized tax increases. I expect to have more opportunities to lead in the coming legislative session.
- Consensus-Builder: I take great pride in working with others to seek common ground, building consensus around practical solutions, eschewing partisan bickering. InHartford, I’ve worked well with members of both parties, particularly in seeking Fairfield County’s fair share of transportation funding to address our ailing road and rail infrastructure.
- Communicator: With my background in marketing/communications, I’m comfortable presenting my point of view, whether before large groups – such as a town hall meeting – or in small groups or one-on-one. So much of constituent relations is helping to educate Westporters on the issues and the facts, so I can engage them in dialogue about the tough choices I often have to make on their behalf.
3. What are the three biggest issues affecting your district? How would you address them?
- Jobs and the economy remain the top issue and will remain the central focus of the Legislature next session. We made a nice start on improving the business climate last session with the bipartisan jobs bills, but we still have much more to do, considering how weak the state’s economy was – before the recession hit!
- Fairfield County legislators are also focused on transportation infrastructure. Our roads, bridges and rail lines are deteriorating, and we’ve pulled together in a bipartisan manner to fight for our fair share of state transportation funding. It’s a constant struggle, but I will continue to pursue our regional interests.
- We have to find ways to manage state spending without an annual budget deficit crisis, yet still preserve the social compact and the quality of life which makesConnecticut a great place to live. I ascribe to the Results Based Accountability methodology which holds programs accountable each year to show whether they’ve achieved their stated objectives -- based on clear metric measures. If they don’t, the programs face budget review or potential outsourcing to third-parties.
4. What is something Connecticut has done well in the past two years? What is something the state could have done better?
With the Governor’s leadership, the Legislature came together in a bipartisan manner to pass several bills intended to improve conditions for job growth. While government shouldn’t necessarily be in the business of creating jobs, several of the initiatives we put in place will make it possible for businesses, large and small, to grow and retain jobs within the state. It’s not just the combination of incentives, improved regulatory responsiveness and investments in cutting-edge industry clusters. It’s also the emphasis on public/private partnerships, where government investments are intended to attract private capital and industry commitment to the state. It’s out best prospect for growing out of the recession, which will create jobs and increase revenues.
What is something the state could have done better? While I give the Governor credit for having put forward a balanced budget in six weeks, addressing a $3.2 billion deficit, I thought he let the Legislature off the hook on spending. Perhaps some tax increases were inevitable, but I would have focused on budget savings first, taxes last. One reason I voted against the budget was that we didn’t even know at the time what deal the Governor would make with state workers. For the next session, I hope the Legislature will be a full partner in identifying ways to streamline government and reduce spending, without compromising the safety net.
5. If re-elected, what would your primary focus be coming into the next term?
I intend to stay focused on improving the state’s recovering economy, promoting the conditions for companies to create more quality jobs, and addressing the concerns of our area, particularly repairing and improving our aging transportation infrastructure.
I also have great interest in energy and environmental issues. I’ve worked hard to become more expert on these complex topics and intend to be a player in the coming session as we evolve our energy strategy to reduce usage and costs, and address ongoing threats to the environment and public health.