By State Senator Will Haskell
In 2018, I decided to do something unusual. I was concerned about the direction of our national and state government, so I came home to Connecticut and ran for office. As the youngest member of the Connecticut General Assembly, I’m personally invested in building Connecticut’s – and Ridgefield’s – future. Despite the enormous challenges we face, I’m more optimistic than ever about the next twenty years in our state.
I’m optimistic because we’ve started the hard work of righting the fiscal ship. Although previous generations made expensive promises to state employees and then failed to save for those promises, Connecticut has taken steps to reform our pension program by offering 403(b)s, the public-sector version of a 401(k). In 2019, I fought off raids on our Rainy Day Fund and am proud that it recently reached an historic $3.1 billion. This fund has proven critical to keeping the lights on in Connecticut during a public health crisis that gave way to a sharp economic downturn.
I’m optimistic because we recently passed transformative changes to our energy system in the Take Back Our Grid Act. This will impose performance-based regulations on Eversource and demand that the public interest come before corporate bonuses. In order to attract the next generation of workers and businesses to Connecticut, we need a grid that is both affordable and reliable. With this legislation, ours can be both.
I’m optimistic because more and more families are deciding to buy a home and set down roots here in Connecticut. I’ll continue working to make this state more affordable for the 21st century workforce, and I’m proud to have written a tax credit that gives businesses a break if they hire recent graduates and help them to pay off their student loans. That bill earned support on both sides of the aisle, because it harnesses the power of the private sector to help solve the student debt crisis. Perhaps most importantly, it earned the support of the Connecticut Realtors, because student loan debt delays the purchase of a first home in Connecticut by an average of seven years.
Finally, I’m optimistic because our community has risen to the challenges of COVID-19 in so many ways. From the volunteers who stayed up late sewing face masks to the teachers who creatively adapted their lesson plans, the COVID-19 crisis has revealed countless local heroes. Our state has made progress in containing the virus by prioritizing public health over politics, supporting small businesses and investing in classrooms.
Some might dismiss my optimism as naivete. But I speak every day with constituents who are starting families in our community, business leaders excited about the new generation of skilled workers coming out of our colleges, and municipal leaders who volunteer their time to improve our schools and modernize our zoning. My job in Hartford is to support and empower those people.
I’m ready and eager to continue to do so in 2021 and beyond.
State Senator Will Haskell represents Connecticut’s 26th District, which includes all of Ridgefield.