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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Candidate commentary -- Rebuild the middleclass -- Steve Fontana Connecticut 34th senatorial district

As published in the North Haven Citizen on Sunday October 28, 2012


Steve Fontana, Democrat, is a candidate for election to Connecticut’s 34th senatorial district, which represents the towns of North Haven, East Haven, Durham and Wallingford.

By Steve Fontana

Everywhere I go in Wallingford, East Haven, North Haven, and Durham, people tell me that their middleclass way of life is disappearing, and that they want their elected leaders to do something about it. I’m running for the State Senate because I will do just that – by starting to rebuild the middleclass.

To rebuild the middleclass, we can’t keep pursuing the same trickledown economic policies that have failed to pull us out of this recession. We have to go back to what we know works: investing in people and businesses, and giving them the ability and opportunity to succeed.

Here is my plan to start rebuilding the middleclass:

1. Make higher education more affordable: For many young people, joining the middleclass, or simply remaining in it, means being able to go to college. Unfortunately, skyrocketing costs, stagnant financial aid, and mounting debt are making it harder for them to pay for it.

We can make college more affordable by ensuring that every student has access to: (1) cooperative-education programs that combine classroom study with real-world experience; (2) three-year degrees that allow students to get their careers going more quickly; (3) online instruction that gives students more convenient classroom learning options; (4) college credit for knowledge and skills that students receive in nontraditional settings; (5) free or low-cost textbooks that reduce classroom expenses; (6) more spots in our state university system; and (7) college-business partnerships that connect students to companies with jobs.

2. Promote small-business job growth and rein in energy and healthcare costs: The keys to getting people back to work are: (A) stimulating demand by getting more discretionary income into consumers’ hands; (B) channeling capital to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and companies in emerging industries that will create good-paying jobs with benefits here in Connecticut; and (C) pursuing common-sense initiatives that will save everyone money, encourage more investment and foster sustainable economic growth.

We can get our economy going again if we: (1) reduce healthcare costs for small businesses by giving them access to the state health plan and developing better illness management; (2) reduce energy costs by having the state negotiate lower rates for all electric utility customers, and by allowing utilities to generate electricity competitively again; (3) establish a public-private infrastructure bank to invest in critical projects; (4) end wasteful corporate tax breaks, and “claw back” state aid from companies that ship jobs out of state or overseas; (5) help lower-income families make ends meet by indexing the minimum wage to inflation; and (6) help people refinance their mortgage at a lower interest rate.

3. Support family life and healthy communities: From buying a home to paying for college tuitions, hardworking parents are struggling to manage large amounts of debt, job insecurity, and, sometimes, health care issues. They want someone to make sure that their kids get the best education possible, and that help will be there for their family if they ever need it.

We can make it easier for them to focus on raising their family if we: (1) modernize aging school buildings; (2) allocate state education funding more equitably by requiring that the state’s education formula uses the most accurate, up-to-date information; and (3) improve insurance coverage for children who need expensive medical care.

4. Ensure seniors a more secure retirement: Families nearing retirement, and senior citizens already in retirement, rightly believe that being part of the middle class means being able to save enough money to retire, and then being able to afford to live on a fixed income once they retire.

We can improve seniors’ retirement security if we: (1) protect our current senior safety net from people who want to cut it; (2) pursue opportunities to reduce seniors’ energy and prescription drug costs; (3) promote senior-friendly affordable housing; and (4) develop portable retirement accounts to help working families save for retirement.

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