State Senator Dan Debicella (R- Monroe, Seymour, Shelton, Stratford) announced a run for the U.S. House of Representatives in District 4 several weeks back, and CLP caught up with him for an interview last week, covering topics including the budget impasse, the GOP counter-budget, the national health-care debate, the stimulus, and more. The result is too much for one post, so we’ll start with the top-line issues.
On the budget process, taxes, and Governor Rell: Debicella would not say if he’ll support the latest plan (proposed on Wednesday the 26th), as he hadn’t seen any concrete legislation. I asked if there was now tension between the state GOP, whose budgets propose zero tax increases, and the Governor, who has opened the door to some tax hikes.
Debicella put it this way: “If Republicans controlled the legislature, there would not be a tax increase this year. However…the Democratic leadership is committed to growing government by raising taxes this year, and not just ‘on the rich’. They are also pushing increased cigarette taxes, alcohol taxes, taxes on small business, and expanded sales taxes—all of which fall squarely on the middle class…. Connecticut needs a budget. (Rell’s) latest proposal to increase taxes by $391 million is a compromise…to find common ground with Democrats. Unfortunately, (the) Democrats continue (to push) an irresponsible spending plan and a record $1.8 billion tax increase.”
As to whether he feels any tension with Rell’s “compromise,” Debicella does not say. But it he clearly opposes any tax hikes, nonetheless. This vote (when it finally comes!) will be a crucial and tricky one for all GOP reps in Hartford, to say the least.
On Layoffs: I noted that the GOP budget suggests using not-for-profits rather than state workers to provide some social services, and suggest that this might mean layoffs. Here is Debicella’s response: “We do need to shrink the size of Connecticut state government, which has ballooned to more than 55,000 employees at the end of last year. Our budget anticipates reducing 6,000 positions over the course of the next two years. Most of this comes through the early retirement program implemented by Governor Rell. The remainder comes from a “hard hiring freeze….” So if there has been any doubt, the GOP plan means that more than 10% of the state work force would eventually be eliminated. That’s a headline.
On national health care reform and Jim Himes: Debicella opposes “a Canadian-style single-payer system, or any “public option” that will lead us” there. Government-run health care does not address the fundamental problem” of rising health care costs. The health care plan Jim Himes supports would cover the 6% of Connecticut residents who are uninsured by increasing taxes on the 94% of us who have insurance. Harming most of us to help some of us is not (the) answer.”
Debicella’s own ideas on health care reform? Five main points here. 1) To increase prevention, a “healthy living tax credit” that would allow families to deduct all covered out-of-pocket medical expenses from their state income tax. 2) An “a la carte” system which reduces mandated services and thus makes policies more affordable; insurance companies would be required to offer the services—but the insured could choose to have them or not. 3) Malpractice tort reform, with limitations on multi-million-dollar “mental anguish” payments. 4) “Better electronic medical records and IT improvements will also enhance care and reduce costs. President Obama has this aspect of health reform 100% right.” 5) Create more low-cost, private-sector run plans. Governor Rell’s Charter Oak Plan is an example of a no-frills health plan that costs families less than $100 per month.”
So much for Republicans not having any health care proposals. I particularly like how he throws a bone to President Obama, who is still very popular here in Connecticut.
I followed up by wondering if computerization of health care records wouldn’t make it easier for government to detect private medical activities through data-mining, and he added that as the IT was upgraded, privacy protections would have to increase as well.
The takeaway? Debicella still hearts Gov. Rell, just not tax increases. He is a no-go on Obama-care, except the technology piece. And he and the state GOP seem to realize that structural budget reform must include fewer state employees.
That’s all for this post, next time we’ll discuss Himes’ vote on the stimulus package and Equal Pay for Equal Work.