State Sen. Tony Hwang can be an expansive speaker about nearly any topic – until he’s asked about his plans to run for governor in 2018.
“I have formed an exploratory (committee),” the Republican lawmaker told the Business Journal. “I’m first and foremost thrilled and honored to represent the 28th district.”
Still, the 52-year-old Hwang, who represents Fairfield, Newtown, Westport, Weston and Easton, described how he’s been visiting all corners of Connecticut, meeting local lawmakers and residents to learn more about issues facing municipalities statewide.
That on-the-road education has informed his involvement with groups like the Coalition Against Casino Expansion in Connecticut. The nonpartisan, 15-group alliance opposes the legalization of a third casino in the state.
The momentum behind that allied opposition began when the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes formed a joint venture, MMCT, to explore opening a gambling site in the Hartford area, with Windsor Locks and East Windsor being the leading contenders to land the project. Those tribes respectively operate the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard and Mohegan Sun in Uncasville.
Hwang said although Connecticut’s original arrangement with the tribes, under which they pay approximately 25 percent of slot machine revenues to the state, had worked well, “The landscape has changed.”
“Over the past years, we’ve seen nearly every state get into the gambling business. We’ve reached an oversaturation point, where the only way to grow that business is to create more addicted gamblers.”
Hwang said that his involvement with the coalition – which includes members of the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference, the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ, the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Farmington Valley American Muslim Center – has provided him with innumerable tales of woe and tragedy, including that of one pastor who herself was once a gambling addict.
The senator also decried the high number of suicides and attempted suicides linked to gambling addiction. According to a Georgia State University report, pathological gamblers are five to 10 times more likely to attempt suicide than non-afflicted people. The report also cites Gamblers Anonymous figures stating that 12 to 18 percent of its members have attempted suicide, 45 to 49 percent have made plans to kill themselves, 48 to 70 percent have contemplated suicide and 80 percent have said they “wanted to die.”
Strong stuff, but does it necessarily apply to Fairfield County? Hwang said it does.
“Constitutionally, we are opening the door to creating a precedent,” he said, “with the MGMs of the world wanting to come in.”
Indeed, the tribes once sought to open two casinos in Fairfield County, and last year MGM Resorts International commissioned Oxford Economics to conduct a study of the potential benefits of constructing a new casino off Interstate 95 in southwest Connecticut.
Building one between Bridgeport and Greenwich “would generate far greater economic benefits than locating one in north central Connecticut because southwest Connecticut offers a much deeper market,” the Oxford study said, estimating that such a casino would generate $70 million for the state, as opposed to $16 million from a north central gambling center.
A Bridgeport area casino would cost about$1.1 billion and create more than 5,700 jobs, nearly 2.8 times as many as one in the north central area, according to the study.
The state is also considering a casino in the north central area in order to compete with MGM’s $950 million casino and entertainment complex under construction in Springfield, Massachusetts, just a few miles from the Connecticut border.
Hwang said he understood how appealing are numbers such as those in the Oxford report, especially in the state’s current economic climate. But the potential human cost must outweigh the bottom line, he argued.
He also pointed to Atlantic City, New Jersey as “a bellwether of gambling in the Northeast.” Once a gambling mecca, that city’s casino revenue dove from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.9 billion in 2013.
Last month, New Jersey state regulators released figures showing that Atlantic City’s casinos took in $2.6 billion in 2016, an increase of 1.5 percent from 2015, but noted that the increase was due mostly to internet gambling. Over the past three years, five casinos have closed and 11,000 jobs have been lost in the city.
“This is a Fairfield County issue because it’s something that impacts all of our communities,” Hwang said.
Housing law reform
Hwang said another of his priorities this legislative session is tied to his recent appointment as co-chairman of the legislature’s Housing Committee, alongside two fellow Democrats, Rep. Larry Butler and Sen. Gayle Slossberg. In particular, he wants to revisit the often-controversial community and workforce housing statute 8-30g.
Hwang said the law, enacted in 1990 to provide affordable housing, has been repeatedly abused by developers to bypass local zoning laws.
“Our priority is to ensure that every individual in the state has the opportunity to have a roof over his or her head,” he said. “The problem (with the statute) is that it has become a tool for potentially predatory development practices.”
Such developers, he said, can come into a community and propose multiple-unit buildings in any area that qualifies, regardless of the historical character of a given neighborhood or the wishes of existing residents or zoning restrictions. When such cases go to court, the developers typically win approval.
“It’s not simply a NIMBY issue,” Hwang said, referring to the not-in-my-backyard opposition to proposed developments often mounted by community residents. “It’s being used as a hammer to drive nails into communities without any degree of local input.”
While 8-30g’s aims are admirable, its implementation has often been “ill-fated and ill-advised,” Hwang said. He said he plans to call for input from local zoning officials, community leaders and others to create a more flexible law while simultaneously maintaining the objective of creating sufficient affordable housing.
Even in a state facing a nearly $3 billion deficit over the next two years, Hwang said he believed this to be “an exciting time” to be a legislator. “For the first time since 1893, we have a tie in the Senate,” he said, referring to the body’s new makeup of 18 Republicans and 18 Democrats. He said he believes that rather than descending into partisan rancor, such an arrangement will give rise to a new era of bipartisan cooperation, especially when it comes to the budget.
“We need to understand that we don’t have a revenue problem,” he said. “We have a spending discipline problem. A lot of us, including myself, will be watching the governor to see if he has the courage to get us away from business as usual and to economic stability.”
Sen. Tony Hwang issued the following statement regarding Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget address:
“On Feb. 7, I was proud to join with Connecticut Senate and House Republicans’ in proposing a plan to reinstate nearly $20 million in education funding that was cut midyear to cities and towns throughout the state. Our plan keeps our promise to towns, to schools and to Connecticut property taxpayers.
“On Feb. 8, the governor told the state he wants to ‘give taxpayers, communities, and businesses more predictability and more sustainability.’
“Unfortunately, the governor’s budget proposal does not back up that claim.
“It is balanced on the backs of towns and every local property taxpayer in Connecticut.
“Make no mistake: Property taxes will rise significantly across Connecticut if the Gov. Malloy budget becomes law.
“Gov. Malloy also balances the budget on the backs of our children and grandchildren. Future generations of Connecticut resident would be saddled with today’s debt, and that’s not sound policy.
“The good news is that the governor’s speech is just the first step in the process. Our new balance of power in the state senate will allow Democrats and Republicans to now sit down and deal with this budget deficit in a thoughtful, responsible way. I look forward to working closely with my colleagues on both sides of the political aisle to put Connecticut back on a path toward true long-term sustainability and predictability.
“That effort will emphasize our commitment to make our towns’ education mission whole. It will emphasize the need to protect vital services for our most vulnerable residents. It will involve measures to create the business ecosystem needed to retain and grow good Connecticut jobs.
“I urge taxpayers in Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Weston and Westport to contact me with any questions they may have about the governor’s proposal. I look forward to joining with my fellow lawmakers in crafting a budget which is fair to towns, schools and taxpayers.”
The governor’s budget documents can be viewed at: http://www.ct.gov/opm/cwp/view.asp?a=2958&Q=590066&PM=1
**Sen. Hwang (www.SenatorHwang.com) can be reached at 800 842-1421 and at Tony.Hwang@cga.ct.gov .
I will not stop fighting for our schools, our towns, and local property taxpayers.
Check out my latest State Capitol Video Update here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNGzTJpHzOs .
View our plan to restore the governor’s cuts to education funding at www.ctsenaterepublicans.com .
Send me your thoughts at Tony.Hwang@cga.ct.gov .
Sen. Tony Hwang on Feb. 7 applauded the Connecticut Senate and House Republicans’ plan to reinstate nearly $20 million in education funding that was cut midyear to cities and towns throughout the state.
“This is about keeping our promise to towns, to schools and to Connecticut property taxpayers,” Sen. Hwang said.
The Republican proposal would allow the state to restore Education Cost Sharing funding that was cut by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration in December and also close the current budget deficit of $11.9 million as estimated by the Office of Fiscal Analysis. Small cuts spread across several state agencies would pay for the proposal. The plan would also draw funds from a reserve account used to fund state employee raises.
“Local leaders need to be able to plan for the future,” Sen. Hwang said. “The December cuts blindsided towns during the middle of the fiscal year. That was unfair. Our plan restores predictability for towns and emphasizes our commitment to make their education mission whole. We are committed to this fight in the future state budget as well.”
The plan can be viewed at www.ctsenaterepublicans.com .
Sen. Hwang can be reached at 800 842-1421 and at Tony.Hwang@cga.ct.gov
Sen. Hwang (www.SenatorHwang.com) represents Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Weston and Westport.
Public Comments Can Now Be Submitted for Feb. 16 Hearing
Housing Committee Co-Chair Sen. Tony Hwang and Ranking Member Rep. Brenda Kupchick today issued the following statement:
“Area residents can now tell state lawmakers what they think of the controversial affordable housing state law known as 8-30g.
“The CT General Statute section 8-30g law:
“This year, we have an opportunity to:
“The Connecticut General Assembly’s Housing Committee will hold a public hearing on the 8-30g law on Thursday, Feb. 16 at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
“You can email your comments about the law today to the Housing Committee at HSGtestimony@cga.ct.gov . The comment may be as brief as you like.
“Make your voices heard in Hartford!
“For more information on the law: www.cga.ct.gov/2017/rpt/pdf/2017-R-0013.pdf . Feel free to call us with questions at 800 842-1421 (Co-Chair Sen. Hwang) and 800 842-1423 (Ranking Member Rep. Kupchick).”
Should Connecticut get rid of the state’s personal income tax on Social Security benefits?
I think so!
If you agree, here’s how you can join me in speaking out in favor of providing tax relief to seniors across Connecticut.
A hearing will be held this Tuesday on Bill No. 6987: www.cga.ct.gov/2017/TOB/h/2017HB-06987-R00-HB.htm
Those wishing to submit testimony in favor of the bill can do the following:
Those who wish to testify in person may attend the hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 10:00 A.M. in Room 2E of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
Please contact me with any questions – thank you!
Covid-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Connecticut’s State Budget
Leadership and Experience to Ensure Residents and Businesses Receive Support and Funding to Survive and Sustain During the Covid Mandated Shut-Down
Creating an Ecosystem of Long-Term Growth and Success for Businesses to Grow and Innovate
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