December 20, 2019
The latest from the folks across the street from the Capitol

From Paddi's Desk
by Paddi LeShane

This past week, the CT General Assembly's special session reminded me a bit of Christmas and Hanukkah with everyone hurrying up and waiting for the big event. So, I'm taking liberties and have "borrowed" a little holiday ditty and adapted it to fit the activities of the past week under the dome in Hartford. Here goes - no laughing!
A happy and cordial Old Saint Lamont
Busy so busy all day.
Looks to his elves and what does he see?
All busy with work and no play.
A busy Speaker Joe A-2-Z
Running around through the snow.
Lays down to make "angels", down on the ground,
Stacking them all neat in a row.
A "Christmas tree" or two is seen,
Decorated with amendments galore,
Awaiting the smiling legislators
To gather them thru the door.
Mistletoe hanging down by the stairs,
Reaching up towards the third floor.
Just the place for many a toll lobbyist
To stand and to make a big score.
A group of constituents gathered around
Roaming through these hallowed halls,
Sing beautiful "tunes" for everyone
The young, old, short and the tall.
The "table" is laid and activity abounds.
All to begin with a prayer,           
The words are lovely and bright,
As they echo throughout with but care.
Anxious senators are told to settle in,
Though they are too excited to try.
So they roam and await and look for the green light,
While occasionally let out a sigh.
Come Thursday morning, after all is done,
The media gather, sharing gifts and a story.
While radio talker's squawk with a laugh and a smile,
And to us they report all the guts and the glory!
Okay, I tried, right? Not everything at the LOB should be so serious!

With that, I send you off for the next two weeks, to wait in anticipation of how I can recover from such frolic. And then we get back down to the serious business of reporting how our elected folks are making big decisions on how CT can kick off the new decade. With a little bit more than fireworks, lights, and cameras, but some long-term actions to pull all of us into the next 10 years of good economic health and an improved quality of life for all to enjoy and benefit.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a very good year ahead to all!    

CT Agency Corner
CT More Prepared for Economic Downturn Now Than in 2007
by Michael Johnson

This week, the Governor brought welcome news to the state's economy that financial credit rating agencies are all enthusiastic about CT's indebtedness being addressed and for their preparedness for future recessions.

Credit rating agencies, such as Fitch and Moody, have all increased the state's classification from BBB to A+. According to Bloomberg News, these are signs of CT addressing their long term debt. "The government is being rewarded by Wall Street for taking steps to stabilize its finances. Unlike Illinois and New Jersey, Connecticut now pays the full required annual contribution to its pensions. The state also extended 30 years to its time frame to repay its retirement-fund debt, resulting in lower and steady annual payments even if it increases the overall cost. Connecticut has gone from trading like a triple B to an A rated bond that's consistent with our internal view," said Guy Davidson, chief investment officer of municipal investments at Alliance Bernstein. "They're a better credit than they had been in previous years and the market has rewarded them for it."

This news is welcome, given the predictions from market analysts that the country is likely heading towards a recession and that the state will need to be prepared to tap into funding sources if revenue collection dips. These sources will be things such as the "rainy day fund," which is funded at its highest percentage in years.

The Governor was very pleased with the announcement as well citing, "Despite being faced with a $3.7 billion deficit, we brought stability to the state's finances without raising tax rates or cutting municipal aid and educational funding. Equally important was curtailing the state's borrowing and restructuring the state's economic development strategy to incentivize growth without jeopardizing taxpayers' dollars. As hard as this year has been, that work is showing results, and Wall Street is taking notice."

Did You Know?
This Week in CT (Christmas) History
December 1938
Connecticut's Christmas Town of Bethlehem

Each year the Bethlehem Post Office processes hundreds of thousands of letters and Christmas cards during the month of December. People from all over the world forward mail to Bethlehem to receive special Christmas cachets and a Bethlehem post mark.
It all started in 1938. A week before Christmas, Bethlehem postmaster Earl Johnson decided to send out a Christmas card with a drawing of a little tree on the envelope and the words, "Merry Christmas from the little Town of Bethlehem." Hearing about this innocuous gesture of holiday spirit, Johnson's uncle wrote a story about it that ended up published in the Chicago News and, later, in the New York Herald Tribune. 
The little post office on Main Street soon became overwhelmed. During the 1950s and '60s the Bethlehem post office handled over 200,000 pieces of mail every December-a volume 1,000% higher than the rest of the year.
Bethlehem, CT still receives mail from all over the world, making CT's small town a true piece of Christmas.  
In This Issue:

by Ryan Bingham

Times are changing for the retail environment in CT and through the country. With the obvious competition with more and more online options, towns are having to grapple with more than just pressure on the mom and pop retailers in town.
Now towns are seeing enormous pressure on big box retailers and malls in certain communities and with that, a downward pressure on local property tax relative to that. A recent example was outlined in Waterford this week with a long standing property tax settlement between the town and their local Crystal Mall. Town leaders say that they'll be able to weather an expected annual loss of about $374,600 for each of the next several years after a recent settlement with Crystal Mall LLC over its property valuation, but the settlement does draw attention to a drop in value of retail stores and their ability to provide future tax revenue for the town. Crystal Mall, in a complaint filed on June 2018, contended that the town had overvalued the properties in Waterford and by extension was overcharging the mall for taxes.
"Across the nation, malls are experiencing major declines in value," Walton said. "It's difficult for them to keep tenants, and they have to reduce rents just to hold onto the tenants that they have. So we're seeing a decline nationwide. I think this year they're up for about a 10 percent decline across the country in value. I think this is indicative of brick-and-mortar stores just taking a hit nationwide with everybody shopping online."
This is one example of what's happening across our state. Towns are almost entirely reliant on property taxes to fund their local budgets, with fewer and fewer resources coming from the state and other sources. We, here at S&L, see proposal after proposal from municipalities looking to diversify their revenue sources every session and as these downward pressure continue to roll, we're sure these proposal will grow in number and intensity. 

Legislative Scoop
by Chelsea Neelon

After a long wait, the General Assembly went back into special session on Wednesday to address the lingering fixes necessary for the state's hospital settlement and restaurant worker legislation.

Both chambers passed the settlement and implementation of the hospital fix unanimously, with no debate on the issue in the House. As reported by CTNewsJunkie, the settlement which was negotiated by Gov. Ned Lamont's administration, Attorney General William Tong, and the Connecticut Hospital Association, will cost the state $872 million over seven years. The hospitals will gain $1.8 billion over that same seven year period. This settlement had a potential for an estimated $4 billion liability to the state and a long legal battle, so the Governor's administration was grateful to be able to put it to rest.

While legislators may have passed the restaurant worker legislation, some lawmakers still expressed their frustrations, saying that they didn't think the legislation went far enough to protect restaurant workers. That being said, most lawmakers were happy to have some protections put in place with a bipartisan compromise. House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the compromise legislation was an example of what the legislature can do when it works together on a bill.

But right before the special session began, an interesting image appeared at the Legislative Office Building. Pro-toll advocates, about 20 members from mostly Fairfield County, joined anti-toll protesters during/after the state's Bond Commission Meeting. The pressure is on from both sides to get some sort of a transportation plan done before the start of the legislative session, especially because the state's bond package is being held in the balance until there is a vote.

Upcoming Events

Senator Matt Lesser Fundraiser
Monday, December 30
Still Hill Brewery
Rocky Hill, CT 06067