Return Osten to fourth term in state Senate

Ask state Sen. Cathy Osten what her top priorities would be if re-elected, or where the next legislature and governor need to focus their attention, or what message constituents are sending her and you get the same response, “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

If a political leader is going to obsess on something, they could do worse.

A retired correction’s officer serving her sixth term as Sprague first selectwoman, Osten, a Democrat, is seeking her fourth Senate term in the 19th District.

Her opponent is retired Norwich police detective Mark Lounsbury, 57. The two have competed before. Lounsbury, a Republican, tried unsuccessfully to unseat Osten as first selectwoman in the 2017 election.

Republicans recognize that Osten, 63, is a political powerhouse. In a district that comprises Norwich, part of Montville, Ledyard, Sprague, Columbia, Franklin, Hebron, Lebanon, Lisbon and Marlborough, you might think that Republicans could come with a more experienced and formidable candidate than someone who could not defeat Osten in the hometown they share.

Lounsbury places himself outside the political mainstream by rejecting the evidence of human-influenced climate change and in his resistance to reasonable controls on gun ownership. He calls himself a fiscal conservative, but does not provide specifics about controlling spending.

Asked by a Day reporter why he was running, Lounsbury replied, “Someone has to.” That explanation is commendable, but hardly inspiring.

On the issue of jobs, Osten took the lead back in January in recognizing that Connecticut needed to partner with Electric Boat in assuring the state took full advantage of the job expansion at the submarine builder. After meeting with EB officials on what would be necessary to assure many of those jobs would be landed by Connecticut residents, Osten made an attention grabbing announcement. She called for a state investment of $150 million in job training and infrastructure upgrades to support EB production growth.

It was excessive and short on details, but it started an important discussion. Ultimately the state settled on an $83 million long-term investment. The money will be spent on dredging of the Thames River, on job training to meet the workforce needs of EB and the subcontractors that feed into it, and on tax incentives to support new construction and expansion of its Groton facilities.

Much of the state aid is tied to EB meeting goals of job creation for Connecticut residents and the use of in-state suppliers to meet its manufacturing needs.

Osten has also been a leader in the effort to save Connecticut casino jobs threatened by the recent opening of the MGM casino in Springfield, Mass. Unfortunately, legislation approving construction of a third casino in the state, to be jointly operated by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, ran into trouble when it bumped up against Washington insider politics that blocked Department of Interior approval.

Back at it, Osten is searching for a workaround that would get a third casino built in East Windsor without needing federal approval, keeping jobs in Connecticut.

A veteran of a state labor union, Osten is a fierce advocate for union rights. She is also concerned about the erosion in funds for human services agencies as the state addressed repeated deficits. Osten sees jobs and an expanding economy as the ultimate solution to fixing Connecticut fiscally.

The senator recognizes Connecticut cannot expand economically without upgrading its decrepit transportation system and that imposition of tolls is the logical, if politically unattractive, way to pay for it. Like many Republicans running for state office, Lounsbury peddles the false narrative that Connecticut will lose federal funds if it installs tolls, while offering no answer for how he would fund transportation needs.

But Osten is no free spender. She and another local state senator, Republican Paul Formica of the 20th District, played key roles as co-chairs of the Appropriations Committee in the passage in 2017 of a bipartisan budget that has guided state spending for the past two years.

It held the line on taxes and included significant reforms: language that finally gives the constitutional spending cap teeth; a $2 billon annual cap on bond authorizations; and a volatility cap intended to prevent the legislature from overspending (and instead saving or paying down debt) when it gets a tax revenue spike.

In what will be another tough budget year, it can’t hurt to have local senators in powerful leadership roles.

Sen. Cathy Osten gets our endorsement in the 19th District race.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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