Opinion: Where we are and looking forward

Terrie Wood

Terrie Wood

Hearst Connecticut media

With a few weeks left in the year, this is a good time to provide an update on two key issues: our state budget and the redistricting plan taking effect next fall for the 2022 elections. It is important information to know and understand some basics.

I’ll also offer closing thoughts as we look forward to the next legislative session.

State budget

As a member of the Finance Committee, I recently attended state budget meetings where we review state spending and revenue trends to help us develop future budgets.

The good news is, we are on sound footing for this fiscal year and next. The not so good news is, this is not sustainable. We have a budget surplus this year (FY 2022) of $915 million. The surplus is largely due to the one-time unprecedented flow of federal money into all the states as well as revenue from increased sales and use tax. FY 2023 numbers also predict a surplus of $512 million.

However, FY 2024 predicts a deficit of $931 million. We cannot continue to create budgets that rely on federal funds for future budgets, leaving us scrambling with red ink in budget years 2024 through 2026.

The Rainy Day Fund (budget reserve account) has a healthy $3 billion balance thanks to the 2017 Republican-led initiative that incentivized saving. Excess revenues will be used to pay down our underfunded teacher pension and state employee pension plans. However, even with this infusion of cash, the state pension fund remains $95 billion (and 39 percent) underfunded after decades of inadequate payments by both parties.

Simply, we need to seek longer-term solutions to put our state on more stable financial footing. I’ll be advocating again next session for more sound budget policies as well as a process that champions accountability and transparency.

Redistricting

Every 10 years — based on the federal census — Connecticut by law must form a commission to look at the state and federal legislative districts and assess population changes that might drive the need to redistrict to maintain districts of equal population. After many years of net out-migration, Connecticut has a slight population growth, mostly in southwestern Fairfield County.

The population of Stamford grew by 9.5 percent, Norwalk by 6.1 percent and Darien by 4 percent since 2010. The eight-member bipartisan commission worked over the summer and early fall to create new districts. Effort was made to keep some semblance of the former districts for consistency while accommodating the big growth in our neighboring cities.

The net result: Darien will have three state senators (up from two currently) and two state representatives, effective for the 2022 election. Because of the way the senate districts have been drawn, Darien is not likely to have its own state senator. Stamford at six times the population has three senators.

With the state legislative districts set, now the Congressional district lines will be drawn by the same guidelines as the state legislative districts.

You may see the district maps and lines by searching CT redistricting 2021, then clicking on House or Senate maps and town or district number under the information tab.

Our voices and responsibilities

The past 21 months have been an extraordinary time in our lives, our state and our country. We’ve had to reassess our value system and priorities in a world that is different from two years ago. It’s been a tumultuous two years with a great deal of uncertainty and high emotion.

I believe it’s more important than ever to keep an open mind and open heart as we move forward. The name calling, false accusations, and keyboard warrioring on social media that went on this past election didn’t get at the real issues that need addressing in our community. Rather than relying on trench warfare on social media, reach out for coffee or make a phone call to listen and learn. I’m always willing to hear your thoughts and perspectives and appreciate the outreach.

Sending best wishes to you, your families and friends for a good New Year filled with good health and great opportunity. I’m grateful to serve as your voice in Hartford and thank you for your trust in me.

I will close with a saying a dear friend uses often: “In joyful hope.” Indeed, onward to 2022!

State Rep. Terrie Wood serves residents in Darien and Norwalk in the 141st House District.