State Representative Mitch Bolinsky Announces Plans To Seek Fourth Term
Saying he wants to put his energies toward advocating for Newtown and its constituents, while parlaying his statehouse experience to help affect structural changes Connecticut needs to attract new residents and retain the taxpayers and businesses here now, Republican incumbent 106th District State Representative Mitch Bolinsky announced his candidacy for a fourth term this week.
In a January 30 meeting withÃÂ The Newtown Bee, supplemented by prepared material, Rep Bolinsky laid the foundation of his first 2018 campaign pitch saying how much he and his family love being part of the Newtown community since moving here - he recalls the date precisely - on September 1, 2000.
And after living in Ohio and Texas, he finds "there is no better place to live than Connecticut."
During his interview, Rep Bolinsky took aim at subjects ranging from his own concerns about the lack of transparency and presumed benefits for at least some state residents in the new federal tax plan, statewide transportation funding challenges, and how Connecticut taxes its dwindling number of ultrarich, to a desperate need for structural state government reform, overhauling spending controls, using technology to streamline agency services, and rolling back unfunded state mandates on communities like his own.
Rep Bolinsky said the recent move by a growing number of state Democrats to break from their intractable allegiance to Governor Dannel Malloy has led to "groundbreaking collaborations" across the aisle.
"I'm seeing progress in developing ways to get our state out of a really deep hole," he said of the most recent efforts toward various reforms.
Turning to his own constituents, Rep Bolinsky said he decided to seek a fourth term because he was brought up to care about his community.
"I was brought up to make a difference," he said, "and Newtown is worth fighting for."
To ensure he is on top of the needs of Newtown residents, RepÃÂ Bolinsky put together a short survey to collect ideas and opinion on some of the major topics of discussion taking place as the 2018 Legislative Session approaches. The General Assembly convenes its four-month-long session on Wednesday, February 7.
"Even though we have not officially started legislative business for the year, it is important that I hear from you," Rep Bolinsky stated to residents in a recent release. "It is important for me to understand how you feel about such topics, or any other suggestions you might have for potential legislation."
In his campaign announcement Rep Bolinsky touted his strong record representing his home town, its people, businesses, and schools.
As Assistant Republican Leader, he promotes the needs of Newtown before the state legislature, as well as through his committee roles. On the powerful, budget-writing Appropriations Committee Rep Bolinsky serves as an advocate for the community and claims he is "always ready to roll up his sleeves to work on Newtown's behalf."
Private Sector Thinking
As a member of the Education Committee, Rep Bolinsky is an advocate for the community's children, families, and teachers. And through his work on the Aging Committee, Rep Bolinsky states that he has proven himself "a caring legislative and constituent advocate for seniors."
"I am not a career politician, rather a 30-year private-sector professional with a lifetime commitment to my community," he said. "Some of my earliest memories are of my dad's community volunteerism, interest in education, and charitable causes. It's in my DNA, although we differ in that I'm a little more soft-spoken than dad was."
Saying that "doing the right thing" is a defining principle in his life, he looks to Newtown's community values as a "guiding light."
"Along with representing our town with integrity, respect, and an open mind, I'm proud to say Newtown has done well getting its fair share and maintaining a high profile in all bipartisan and partisan matters on my watch," he said.
Rep Bolinsky also recognizes that Newtown's fortunes are tied to those of the state.
"Unfortunately, Connecticut's challenges are significant. Until we make the kind of structural changes needed to balance budgets and run a more efficient, consumer- and business-friendly state, many communities and individuals may not get the opportunity to realize their full potential," he lamented. "Our quality of life depends on how and how well we restore our state's ailing economy and stop the outflow of opportunities. We must focus on fixing the things that don't work because they're dragging us down and preventing Connecticut's return to prosperity."
Rep Bolinsky has lived in Connecticut long enough to remember it as a lower-tax, less regulated alternative to other Northeast states.
"And we flourished," he recalled. "But, career politicians in Hartford lost sight of what made our state a magnet for jobs, how we developed skilled workers to fill them, and what made our state a great place to raise their families. Recent population losses are evidence of that."
He believes that the state's "political bosses in the legislature and governor's mansion created a 'Government Class', an entitled, spending-addicted big-government machine that's alive and well today. Its goal? To enrich itself and break the financial backs of the rest of us with a constant river of tax increases. We pay more and get less. It's time to break the cycle - now."
Pointing to the obvious, Rep Bolinsky recognizes that Connecticut has a spending problem.
"It's time to change that and save our state. We can do this," he assured. "People like me understand the solutions and have begun to put us on the path to repairing our economy with reforms like our new Constitutional Spending Cap; Bonding Cap; a new framework for Educational Cost Sharing (ECS); and ending the double taxing of Social Security and pension income."
Rep Bolinsky ticked off a number of accomplishments in the most recent session, which include:
*Restoring more than $4 million ECS funding after the governor cut Newtown's education grants; killed the governor's attempt to hit Newtown with $4 million of teacher pension liability; and restored another $3.5 million municipal aid cut. Without this, local property taxes would have risen 10 percent.
*Being honored by the Connecticut Institute for Communities (CIFC) with its Outstanding Public Official Award for work on behalf of school-based health centers.
*Fighting for and restoring eligibility for seniors and disabled individuals served by Connecticut's Medicare Savings Program.
*Passing legislation to help Lions Clubs improve fundraising, increased funding for Meals On Wheels, limit opioid prescription distribution, restore funding for Newtown's Historic Horse Guard and more.
In 2016, Rep Bolinsky points to his:
*Recovering $180,000 in special education dollars lost in a state Department of Education error; closed deal on $500,000 grant for Fairfield Hills streetscape
*Passing legislation to help early diagnosis of dyslexic students, strengthen animal cruelty laws, reduce human trafficking, fund Newtown's Horse Guard and more.
*Being endorsed by the 43,000-member Connecticut Education Association (CEA) for his support of public schools, by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), and the 16,000-member Connecticut Association of Realtors.
One year earlier, Rep Bolinsky was responsible for passing legislation supporting caregivers at home, known nationally as the CARE Act, protecting electric consumers from unscrupulous variable rate pricing abuse, providing greater local control of education funding, protecting student privacy, expanding the Alzheimer's Respite Care Program and more. In 2015 he was also honored by AARP CT and National as a Capitol Caregiver for passage of the CARE Act and his work for seniors.
If he is successful at winning a fourth term, Rep Bolinsky said he is committed to digging into the hard work that lays ahead.
"But I'm optimistic we can reinvent our state and get it humming again with greater efficiencies, lower taxes, and sustainable economic growth," he said. "The path forward will require collaboration and compromise to hammer out solutions to problems 30 years in the making."
In regard to the current state funding for special education or Education Cost Sharing ECS formulas, Rep Bolinsky believes changes must be made to create a more equitable formula that addresses not only the most challenged school districts, but where the populations of students are living.
"Education dollars should follow the child," he toldÃÂ The Newtown Bee. "If a district was receiving a certain amount of ECS funding and its student population decreases over time and has not gone back up, the state should [proportionately] roll back ECS funding."
Being a caregiver himself, Rep Bolinsky feels for those who have recently faced reductions or the complete elimination of services for families caring for special needs children, frail elderly relatives, and for individuals who are challenged to keep pace with their families economic needs.
"Every community in Connecticut has many families who are soldiering through caring for loved ones, and we are seeing many of these caregivers aging out and worried about who will care for their loved ones in the future," he said.
Learning From Mistakes
From a wider perspective, Rep Bolinsky said Connecticut would do well learning from the mistakes it has already made.
"Until we get our financial house in order, we cannot tackle sustainability," he said. "As a state, we just don't learn from the past, we're dysfunctional in that regard."
Mirroring his own situation, Rep Bolinsky said he has a lot of confidence in the recently formed Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, which he said is populated with members who bring "corporate thinking" to the table.
The local lawmaker also bristles when he is faced with proposed legislation with hasty add-ons that Rep Bolinsky said are designed and "snuck through the system" to satisfy certain lawmakers' special interests.
For that reason, he espouses a "slow and steady" approach to making the huge structural adjustments the state needs to become an attraction for new residents, its college educated children to return to, and a fertile environment for businesses to relocate or to stay and thrive.
Locally, Rep Bolinsky said he is already busy working with newly elected First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, to help him understand the many ways the Newtown delegation of lawmakers can go to bat for the community.
What is keeping him up at night?
Rep Bolinsky said the current "disruptive" influences of the governor have caused some degree of panic among various constituencies.
"You don't have to create havoc to achieve positive results," he said, adding that a lot of the governor's recent initiatives have overshadowed the good work being done across the aisle up at the capital, and that the level of conflict between Gov Malloy and members of his own party is "not normal."
He pointed to the governor's latest proposal to institute highway tolls, and to increase the state tax on tires and gasoline, to shore up the transportation fund that pays for new roads and maintenance to existing ones.
"The national average cost to build one mile of state highway is $161,000," Rep Bolinsky said. "In Connecticut, that per mile cost is $478,000 - and $84,000 per mile is administrative cost."
That makes Connecticut's highways the fourth costliest in the nation.
Rep Bolinsky believes that by controlling administrative costs, sharing resources to achieve economies of scale, and using low bid contracts, the state could save $2 billion annually in highway-related expenses, instead of shifting even more costs onto local taxpayers and travelers.
He is also growing more fearful about the flight of Connecticut's most wealthy residents. He believes the philosophy of taxing those who earn the most to best sustain state systems is "a fallacy."
"Do you know that since 2014, 65 percent of the one percent most wealthy state residents are now paying taxes [out of state] because they have moved to or declared residency in another state? You can't impose a tax mandate on people who recognize there is a point of no return - and we are past it," he said. "If residents are taxed fairly and stay here, we all win."
The Mitch4Newtown or "M4N" campaign is planning a re-election kick-off event in the coming weeks. It will provide a chance to engage constituents in conversation and exchange ideas in person.