Mayor Joseph P. Ganim
For Immediate Release For More Information:
May 24, 2016 Av Harris (203) 814-7992 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Ganim, Speaker Sharkey, Senate President Looney Join Bridgeport Delegation to Review 2016 Legislative Accomplishments for Bridgeport
Despite Major Budget Cuts, State Investment in Bridgeport Preserved with Real Property Tax Relief for Residents; Bills Passed to Help University of Bridgeport Establish Naturopathic Medicine Center and Open Door to Creative Regional Approach to Improve Special Education
Bridgeport, CT – Mayor Joe Ganim joined the Bridgeport state legislative delegation, Connecticut House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, and Senate President Pro-tem Marty Looney at a news conference to review the significant legislative accomplishments won to benefit the city of Bridgeport during the 2016 session, which by all accounts was very difficult and saw the state cut nearly $900 million in spending. Despite this challenging environment, legislative leaders Sharkey and Looney remained committed to the state’s investment in Bridgeport, working with the delegation to preserve new revenue for the city contained in a diversion of state sales tax revenue. Overall, Bridgeport is receiving an increase of just over $14,000,000 in fiscal year 2017 from the overall state aid figure in FY 2016. This increase comes together with real property tax relief on all motor vehicles in Connecticut, including a 12% decrease in the motor vehicle tax for Bridgeport. There was also a key piece of legislation passed that will help the University of Bridgeport’s unique naturopathic medicine program by opening up medical licenses for naturopathic physicians in Connecticut, and another bill approved by both houses that opens the door to a creative, new regional to improve special education services based in Bridgeport. Mayor Ganim praised the good teamwork of the delegation together with the leadership of both House Speaker Sharkey and Senate President Looney.
“I truly want to thank – loudly – the hard-working legislative delegation from Bridgeport, and the leadership of House Speaker Brendan Sharkey and Senate President Marty Looney,” said Mayor Ganim. “In very difficult times when everyone is feeling the effects of significant state spending cuts, Connecticut’s legislative leadership kept its historic commitment to help the most challenged urban centers such as Bridgeport. Given Connecticut’s over-reliance on the property tax for revenue, this extraordinary legislative leadership team continues to recognize the disadvantage faced by larger cities compared to our suburban neighbors. Bridgeport bears the cost of many regional services but yet has vast areas of non-taxable property. The investments the state has made in our municipalities are a game changer meant to even out that inequity and will benefit all residents of Bridgeport. We are truly grateful for the support, and we all know that healthy cities benefit the entire state of Connecticut.”
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said, “I had a dream as a young man that when I grew up I wanted to save the great city of Bridgeport. I hope that in some small way as Speaker of the House I was able to fulfill part of that dream. I want to thank the Bridgeport delegation for their hard work this session. What also contributed greatly to the success we saw for your city is the strong teamwork shown between the delegation and Mayor Ganim, all working together towards common goals to fortify Bridgeport for the future. That teamwork has yielded some tremendous results for Bridgeport.”
Senate President Marty Looney said, “Mayor Ganim deserves credit for his extraordinary work in the past session as an advocate – not only for Bridgeport – but for all urban areas of our state. Bridgeport with the largest population in the state has a particular story to tell about the needs of urban areas – large populations, lots of tax exempt property, and tremendous needs. Mayor Ganim along with Mayor Bronin of Hartford and Mayor Harp of New Haven were very effective in coming up to testify in public hearings as advocates about the needs of cities. They also deserve lots of credit for working together as a group with their delegations to advance this urban agenda. The property tax is most burdensome on the residents of our cities. After years of talking about it, we finally did something by diverting some sales tax revenue towards property tax relief, even in this very difficult session.”
Bridgeport State Representative Jack Hennessy (D-127), chair of the delegation, said, “It is such a pleasure to work with Mayor Ganim. In my twelve years as a state Representative, this is the first time that we have had such open communication and receptiveness from the Mayor’s office to hearing the ideas from the delegation and working together to move the best agenda forward for Bridgeport. It made a huge difference. In these difficult times, there was tremendous pushback toward keeping our commitments to urban areas embodied under Senate Bill 1 last year. And we stuck together with our colleagues from other cities and legislative leadership fulfilled our promises. I am very proud of that.”
State Senator Marilyn Moore (D-22) said, “The Bridgeport delegation has made it really clear that we come to the Capitol as a team. The needs are so great in Bridgeport, and we all work closely together identifying priorities for the citizens of Bridgeport, and getting that legislation through. I also want to praise Mayor Ganim, who from day one was willing to sit down with us as a delegation and ask what didn’t work before, what do we need to do now, and how can I help. It was his leadership and guidance that really brought us all together as a team. Our work will really open the door to strengthen the University of Bridgeport Naturopathic medicine program and helping the Bridgeport public schools improve special education services. These things will make a tremendous impact.”
State Representatives Steve Stafstrom (D-129), Ezekiel Santiago (D-130), and Chris Rosario (D-128) also attended the news conference along with State Senator Ed Gomes (D-23). They highlighted legislation also helping the city of Bridgeport such as line items to support the PT Barnum Museum, the Beardsley Zoo, and the Discovery Museum, as well as a provision allowing municipalities to establish a by ordinance additional revenue from ticket sales at concert venues such as the Webster Arena, the Klein auditorium, and the Harboryard stadium. The Connecticut General Assembly also passed a measure that gives Bridgeport reduced amortization payments for its police and fire pensions into the Municipal Employees Retirement System, saving the city’s budget nearly $10 million over the next two years.
Bridgeport School Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz also praised the leadership of Speaker Brendan Sharkey for helping pass a bill that offers state funding to establish a regional behavioral intervention center to improve special education services.
“I want to thank the Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey for listening to our vision around a pre-special education program,” said Rabinowitz. “One of the biggest threats to our school district budget is the cost of special education, and many of our students are being identified for special education that don’t necessarily need those services. This program will be geared towards the youngest students in our system, who are coming in with very challenging behaviors, who have seen trauma, who are very angry, and these behaviors don’t mean these are special ed students, it means they need strategies to help them cope with those behaviors. This center will not only help Bridgeport but will help our surrounding communities as well.”
Dr. David Brady, Vice Provost of Division of Health Services at University of Bridgeport, praised the Bridgeport delegation for supporting a bill studying changes sought to the licensing of naturopathic physicians.
“The University of Bridgeport has the only college of naturopathic medicine on the East Coast,” said Brady. “We emphasize disease prevention, instead of reacting to adverse health conditions. Unfortunately, Connecticut’s naturopathic medical licensing laws are a hundred years old and it is driving many of our talented graduates out of state. The bill passed this year will help pave the way to licensing the physicians educated in Connecticut provide millions of dollars worth of health care services to the residents who need help here. We are truly grateful for the advocacy and partnership of the Bridgeport legislative delegation in getting this bill through. We look forward to working with leadership of both the Connecticut House and Senate to making this licensing reform a reality.”