SOUTHBURY — Arthur O’Neill is seeking re-election as state representative of the 69th District.
The 69th District comprises the towns of Bridgewater, Roxbury, Southbury and Washington.
He told Voices, “I’m running because there’s important work left to be done on behalf of people in towns in my district and in Connecticut.”
One of his primary goals is to reduce taxes, which he says can’t happen unless spending is reduced. “The cost of state government can be directly controlled.”
While he recognizes that some expenses are challenging to address, he feels many are straightforward, such as the expenses associated with the Commission on Equity and Opportunity, which he described as a group that provides advice to the state legislators.
“I question if the commission provides any value to the people in this state because this is an expense we can no longer afford. We should not be spending half a million dollars for one person to direct three, one of whom is a clerk and another a researcher. If there is some value, I ask if it is justified by the expense.”
He added, “We need to ask serious questions when we are facing a multi-billion dollar budget deficit.”
Citing another example of what he feels is wasteful spending, Mr. O’Neill said that union stewards are apparently performing union work on state time, without clocking out when they switch away from state-oriented tasks.
He also explained that pension calculations are based on earnings for the last five years of employment and state employees have been allowed to include overtime in that calculation.
“Clearly, we have to make changes for new hires and for people who are some distance from retirement because, while they may have been counting on double shifts to build a stronger retirement benefit, I don’t think that’s a reasonable expectation.”
The candidate would respect the contracts of employees close to retirement.
In addition to spending reductions, Mr. O’Neill would like to address taxation.
“The state offered $50 million to the Bridgewater Group, which moved from Westport to Stamford after accepting the state aid. I don’t know if they had any intention of moving out of Connecticut but, to pay for that $50 million gift, every other tax payer in Connecticut had to pay higher taxes.”
He continued, “The current, Democratic administration, with the full support of a Democrat-controlled legislature, has provided billions in state aid, tax breaks or direct grants. We have to stop doing that and take care of taxes that discourage business.”
Mr. O’Neill referred to a specific piece of legislation to illustrate how he’d like government to listen effectively and make informed decisions.
According to him, the state had increased its taxes on computer data processing services in 2015 from one to 6.35 percent in spite of concerns raised at the time by General Electric and other companies.
He said the original tax was part of the 1991 tax package introduced by Gov. Lowell Weicker with an original rate of six percent.
Before the tax was implanted, the legislature paid attention to the fact that New York state was charging 1.7 percent and decided to approve a one percent tax instead of six, thereby attracting companies such as IBM in Southbury.
Recently, the legislature reconsidered the tax, debating a 6.35 percent rate, which did not pass. “But, the damage was done. The message we sent was that we will tax in a shotgun approach because we can’t discipline our spending.”
Mr. O’Neill feels it is critical to improve the state financial situation, “We’re on the verge of junk bond status and it’s going to take a number of years and changes to stabilize our finances. We have to have a rational and fair tax policy that doesn’t go after people.”
He referred to another major issue, healthcare, “There are no easy answers. I’m intrigued by Medicare for All but I think that needs to be addressed at the federal level because of limitations at the state level. I’ve seen some price stabilization in healthcare and the system seems to be working better but we can’t help people in a big way unless we fix the mess we’re in and fix our deficit.”
Addressing the idea of repealing the Affordable Care Act, Mr. O’Neill commented that state statutes guarantee that insurance coverage cannot be denied for pre-existing conditions. “It’s an issue that gets raised as a scare tactic but it can’t happen in Connecticut.
“There are several issues like that, including Roe vs. Wade.” He had voted for the state statute that not only supported abortion, but provided additional counseling. “It’s a protection at the state level that I have a hard time seeing change because it passed in such a bipartisan way.”
He said, “People also ask me about marriage equality, which has been a state statute for a decade. Even if something happened at the federal level, I doubt much would change at the state level.”
Musing over his 30 years in office, he said, “I like what I do, it’s interesting and helps people. For example, the town recently contacted me to ask if I’d support a new ambulance operation.
“As I started to do my homework, I found the financials were not thoroughly analyzed and I wasn’t sure there was support from the town, Heritage Village and training school ambulance groups. I was able to help the Board of Selectmen get information and that’s one of the great rewards of being a representative.”
He urged voters to act. “We need a change in direction. Our budgets have been putting us on a road to financial disaster and it’s important for voters to understand the candidates’ positions on issues and vote.”
More information and volunteer opportunities are available by liking Arthur O’Neill State Representative on Facebook or calling 203-264-3112.