House Speaker: Centralize special education, sell rest stops...

House Speaker: Centralize special education, sell rest stops...

New Britain Herald, January 25, 2018
By Brian Johnson

State House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz stopped in at Paul Gregory’s for breakfast Tuesday morning, talking with residents about a wide range of issues.

Aresimowicz, a Democrat whose district includes Berlin and Southington, said he tries to hold breakfast events once or twice a month.

At Tuesday’s event, about a half-dozen residents attended, including teacher Dan Hart and his wife, Susan, and developers such as Tony Denorfia and Mark Lovely.

Denorfia said that his industry has been “decimated” by the state’s sluggish economy and said that he hopes to see some “positive motion” happening soon.

“We are losing 30,000 people a year. That’s like the entire population of Berlin moving somewhere else,” he said.

Aresimowicz said that some plans being considered to help people remain in state include a $500 tax credit to college graduates who come back to Connecticut, with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students being a priority. He added that the state has been working hard to help address the shortage of skilled workers coming into manufacturing.

“This year, manufacturing jobs surpassed finance and insurance,” said Aresimowicz. “Goodwin College opened a new, $10 million branch and we are retooling our education throughout the state to have more of a focus on the trades.”

When Dan Hart asked him about education, Aresimowicz suggested that special education needs to be centralized.

“I think we need to regionalize - have these students come to a central location instead of trying to force a square peg into a round hole,” he said. “The needs of special education students are often vastly different than the needs of other students. I understand the value of having them spend some time in a mainstream school, but let’s at least consider it.”

Infrastructure as a priority too back to top

Later in the conversations, Aresimowicz noted that although there had been “30 something gubernatorial candidates” announcing, he had yet to endorse one from either side.

“I want to take them aside and ask them ‘What is your plan?’” he said. “We are in a time when we are redefining ourselves.”

Aresimowicz also said that infrastructure needed to be a priority and said that 30 percent of the state’s bridges were in failing condition, with 50 percent of them considered to be deficient. He said that he is “totally for” having tolls, but would support having state residents be able to get an E-Z Pass at a discount.

Other ideas Aresimowicz discussed included selling off rest stops to private owners and letting them open convenience stores there.

Aresimowicz also gave Gov. Dannel P. Malloy credit for some savings that had been made.

“We went from 54,000 state employees to 42,000 and went from 19,000 supervisors to 12,000 supervisors,” said Aresimowicz. “We went from 86 departments to 63. Overall we need to be more cost efficient and I think that he is trying to push municipalities to become more cost efficient. He just takes things a few steps too far. He approached this in a terrible way. We need to pull the money away in phases, not all at once.”