This year’s local election in Bristol is about the size of government and taxes. My opponents have openly and repeatedly said the best way to improve our quality of life, student performance, and economy is to grow government and raise taxes. Chris Wilson, Democratic Candidate for Mayor stated at a debate this week how people in Bristol should NOT feel they are overtaxed because “we have the 50th lowest mill rate in the state.” As Chairman of the Board of Education, Chris wants to give more money to the Board of Education for additional extracurricular programs. Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, my opponent for City Council, echoed these sentiments at a Rotary Club breakfast and a debate of Council Candidates by saying she wants to see more students get into Harvard, Princeton and Yale and that she is a “Progressive, Liberal, New Deal Democrat” who believes we need bigger government and more spending to ensure a good quality of life for our citizens. She favors raising taxes, as soon as possible, to add more after school programs, ball fields and other amenities.
Having worked for the government for 20 years as an Air Force Officer, including two years writing speeches and legislation for the White House and Secretary of Defense, I agree that government can facilitate the growth of our economy and quality of life. But more government is not the answer to all our problems. Nor is more spending without accountability going to meet our needs. Simply put, we can’t afford more taxes at this time and I do not agree we should raise them until we seriously review what we are currently spending and what processes we use to plan and prioritize our spending and oversee the performance and accountability of our City government and Board of Education departments and managers.
Unfortunately, Bristol is not living in a bubble. We are weighed down by Connecticut’s financial mismanagement and political paralysis, which has made us the highest taxed state in the nation, the worst business environment, the worst environment for retirees, the worst estate taxes in the country, and the third highest debt per citizen in the U.S. – twice that of California. Until things get better economically and politically, we need to hold the line on spending, growing government and taxes. This doesn’t mean cutting our current budgets. It means we need to aggressively find waste and inefficiency by reviewing what we spend money on and review the processes we use to set priorities and oversee City government performance and accountability. I believe we will find enough waste in our current budgets to fund many new priorities. I also believe we need better oversight of City spending and am very concerned that Bristol has not had a full financial audit of its books in decades. It is time to clean and repair our “house” before we start adding more rooms. Raising taxes at this time will only serve to drive more people out of Bristol and keep businesses from moving in or growing.