Lawmakers, business leaders discuss transportation challenges, state budget concerns

Lawmakers, business leaders discuss transportation challenges, state budget concerns


MERIDEN — Thomas Welsh, president of Meriden Economic Development Corporation, took advantage of a networking opportunity Friday and asked state Sen. Len Suzio for help solving transportation challenges for local students and in building a fund for economic development.

“It’s easier to go from Meriden to New Haven, or Meriden to Hartford or Meriden to New Britain, including the existing bus routes, than to go from Meriden to Middletown,” Welsh said at a legislative roundtable hosted by the Midstate Chamber of Commerce. “There is a real transportation problem in Meriden, which is part of the Middlesex Community College problem. We’re working on those things.”

The community college has scaled back night classes and other course offerings at its Meriden branch in recent years, forcing more students to travel to the main campus in Middletown. Some students have complained that they can’t always rely on public transportation, especially at night.

Suzio, a Republican from Meriden, and other area lawmakers met with members of the business and non-profit communities at Il Monticello.

The Meriden Economic Development Corporation and the city have tried to set up a development fund and the non-profit was willing to put in $100,000 in seed money, Welsh told Suzio, who offered his support and suggested he might get banks to the table. MEDCO is a non-profit organization that works to stimulate economic development in the region.

State lawmakers took time out of their committee hearings Friday to brief members of the business and non-profit communities about what to expect in the upcoming year.

Nicole Cline, of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said her members have several concerns.

“One of the things we’re focused on this year is looking at the state budget,” Cline said. “Whenever there is a deficit the business community is being looked at in terms of revenue. We’re also looking at a lot of labor issues.”

CBIA members are concerned about a proposed shift in the cost of teachers’ pensions moving to municipalities.

“One of the reasons we’re concerned about that is our businesses pay property taxes,” Cline said. “We’re also concerned about those property taxes potentially increasing if those shifts occur.”

Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, said he wants to see more oversight on programs, such as Connecticut Innovations, that give money to small businesses.

Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, assured non-profits that she opposes drastic cuts to human services. Reductions in home health care means more seniors in nursing homes, and the budget is forcing 10,000 more adults off the state’s Husky insurance plan.

“We in human services have taken most of the hits in the past years,” Abercrombie said. “Most of what the governor has proposed, I’m not recommending. I understand we have to be fiscally responsible but this wasn’t a cut, it was a slice and dice.” (203) 317-2255 Twitter: @Cconnbiz

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