Over the last few years, our politics have become polarized in a way that I’ve never seen and never would have expected. Civility, kind gestures or words seem to be in short supply. Too many people in our country have developed an “us against them” mentality and believe that our government institutions no longer work for them.
If you identify yourself as a Republican or Democrat, people immediately make judgments about what you believe and support. Both sides have ugly labels they apply to their counterparts based solely on party affiliation. But do they really know what you believe in and why?
When I joined the Senate Republican Caucus in 2009, Connecticut, like other states, was facing the worst economic crisis since the great Depression. We had a new, Democratic governor, a Democratic super majority in the house and senate, and a massive budget deficit.
Being in the minority party, the task ahead appeared daunting. However, instead of deferring to those who controlled the process, the budgets, and the votes before our legislative body, Republicans were proactive. We rolled up our sleeves and proposed one alternative budget after another. We did that every year in an attempt to sway our colleagues toward what we believed were more fiscally responsible solutions.
These were not gimmicks created merely to show opposition. We presented real budgets offering real change. We believed then, and now, that our budgets would move Connecticut toward a robust economy with growing job opportunities. We believed responsible taxing and spending policies would create a more business-friendly environment, and would give taxpayers needed financial relief.
We were called obstructionists. We were called the party of ‘no.’ We were called the party of old, white men. In fact, Democrat colleagues spent a tremendous amount of time telling the public what it meant to be a Republican. They could not be more wrong!
For one thing, Connecticut Republicans have and continue to increase diversity in our ranks. Our party includes members from the LGBTQ community, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and even short Italian females. In fact, there have been more Republican women than Democratic women in our House of Representatives.
A compassionate conservative vision
As for me personally, being a Republican means having a vision of a better Connecticut. It means being self-reliant, industrious, fiscally responsible and compassionate to those that need our help. It means being forward thinking, not just to the next year or next election cycle. It means thinking about the impact that decisions we make today could have on future generations. Are we leaving them a legacy, or a burden?
I am very proud to say that part of this legacy is a unanimous passage of our nation’s toughest hate crimes law, crafting Connecticut’s landmark gun bill and spearheading the holocaust and other genocide education mandate. Our legacy includes legislation that protects our environment and open space, healthcare, women’s rights, marriage equality, civil rights, as well our children.
A party’s budget reveals its priorities. What services do you prioritize when spending taxpayers’ money?
Republican budgets include an Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula that provides state funding for all of Connecticut’s students, urban and suburban. It supports providing necessary funding to care for our elderly, and residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The Republican urban agenda calls for funding programs that help people go back to work and maintain employment. These include childcare, substance abuse and mental health treatment, and multigenerational programs that meet the needs of both teen mothers and their children. I believe we must continue to support programs that help people become self-reliant.
Republicans support a state budget that provides funding for our municipalities without asking them to pay for bad financial decisions made by the state. Republicans proposed a transportation plan that contains bonding for crucial infrastructure needs and mass transit: one that does not include tolls, more taxes, or fees.
Republicans believe that tax policy is the key driver of the state’s economy. Taxes should not be the first thing policy makers go to when looking to balance our budgets. We need to keep costs as low as possible for taxpayers and businesses, so that our economic climate is more competitive than the other states that are attracting our diminishing population. If we are able to create an environment for private job growth, we will have the tax base to fund the critical social services that residents need.
Republicans will continue to present ideas to save our state from financial ruin. We advocate for reduced regulations and a more business-friendly climate that will create job opportunities for everyone.
No matter the setbacks or national headlines, Republicans will continue to listen to what people want and press forward with a vision for what our state can be: a Connecticut with an expanding middle class, where all children receive a good education, where everyone has the opportunity to find a good job or to create and grow their own business. That’s what being a Connecticut Republican means to me.
Abraham Lincoln , the father of the Republican Party, says it best “ The people will save their government , if government itself will allow it.”
Toni Boucher is a Connecticut businesswoman and former Connecticut State Senator, State Representative and with a long career of public service.
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