HARTFORD –State Rep. Chris Wright, a Bristol Democrat who was sworn in Wednesday during the opening day session of the General Assembly, said he finally got a legislative office.
It’s not quite the closet he feared, but “freshmen definitely don’t get a window.”
Though he hasn’t got much of a view, the 77th District lawmaker said he is “very happy” with committee assignments that include serving on the powerful Finance, Revenue and Bonding panel that oversees tax policy, fees and bonding.
That should give him a front row seat on the legislature’s big task of the year: finding a way to close an expected $3 billion hole in its two-year spending plan.
Joining the legislature, where his father Gardner Wright once served, proved “pretty exciting,” Wright said, but it is also “a little terrifying” when he thinks of the magnitude of the problems he’ll have to deal with.
“We’ve got a tough session ahead of us,” said state Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat who has represented the 79th District for the past two years. He said he hopes legislators can “put politics aside” and solve the problems facing the state.
State Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican whose 78th District includes northwestern Bristol, said the scope of the projected deficit is “mind-boggling,” making up as much as 17 percent of the overall budget, and an even higher portion of the spending that legislators can control.
Hamzy, the deputy minority leader, said this is sure to be “the most difficult session” he’s seen since joining the House in 1994.
He said he figures things can go two ways.
In the best case scenario, Hamzy said, lawmakers will recognize the scope of the financial hit the state is taking “and then act to make the changes that will be required.”
“We can’t get by tinkering around the edges,” Hamzy said. “We’ll never be able to tinker enough.”
“No doubt there have to be cuts,” Nicastro said, adding that he hopes both sides of the aisle will work together to make the cuts wisely.
Since the state can’t print more money, as the federal government can do, and it has to balance its books, there’s no way to cope without making tough choices, Hamzy said.
Hamzy said that in 1991, the last time the state faced such a crisis, it imposed the income tax. That kind of solution simply doesn’t exist now, he said.
“There’s nothing out there that fills a $3 billion hole in the budget,” Hamzy said.
Hamzy said he plans an informational meeting in Bristol about the budget near the end of January, to begin educating the public and local officials about the tough choices that lawmakers face.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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