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Keep Osten in Senate to fight for jobs, workers, and smart spending

Voters in the 19th District would be making a terrible mistake if they dumped state Sen. Cathy Osten and replaced her with an inexperienced freshman Republican legislator with absolutely no political pull. Yet Osten’s return for a fifth term is in doubt.

Much of the district consisting of Columbia, Sprague, Franklin, Hebron, Lebanon, Ledyard, Montville, Lisbon, Marlborough and Norwich leans decidedly Republican. Osten is a Democrat. In 2016, seven of the district’s 10 towns backed President Donald Trump in his race with Hillary Clinton, and only in Norwich did Clinton win decisively.

Seeing Osten, 65, as potentially vulnerable, Republicans have targeted the district as a possible seat to pick up, nominating former police officer and businessman Steve Weir, 46. There was celebrating in Republican ranks in 2019 when Osten lost her position as Sprague first selectman, a town Trump took four years ago 57% to 36%.

But if voters decide to reject Osten, they will be dismissing a lawmaker who has been laser-focused on job creation, who has been a champion for workers in fighting to boost the minimum wage and provide paid family leave, a senator unafraid to take on the Democratic governor if she feels he is doing her region a disservice.

Osten is not a liberal spendthrift. Trying to paint her as such is simply creating a caricature that does not hold up. From her position as co-chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee and assistant president pro tempore, she has overseen budgets that have actually shrunk the size of government through attrition, trimming the workforce to levels not seen since the late 1950s and early 1960s.

In 2017, she worked with another local senator and the leading Republican on the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Paul Formica of the 20th District, to reach bipartisan agreement on arguably the most important piece of state fiscal legislation passed this century.

The deal contained language that finally implemented the constitutional spending cap Connecticut voters approved way back in 1992. The legislature, as a result of the agreement, also imposed a $2 billion cap on bond authorizations and a volatility cap to prevent lawmakers from immediately spending any spikes in income tax revenue.

The agreement played a major role in Connecticut accumulating a record $3.1 billion budget surplus — or rainy day fund — which is helping it get through the pandemic.

But Osten recognizes that Connecticut cannot cut its way to fiscal health, it needs to grow its economy and tax revenues. She has been a leading advocate for programs at our community colleges to provide the training to feed local workers into the expanding workforce at Electric Boat and is frustrated that the Lamont administration has not reopened the American Jobs Center in Montville.

No one pushed harder than the senator for the state to bond the $7 million needed to complete the environmental cleanup of the former Norwich Hospital property, even though Preston, where the property is located, is not in her district. Osten knows how important it is for the local economy for the Mohegan tribe to pursue its development plans for the property, once it is cleaned up.

She expresses frustration — exasperation that we share — over the failure of Gov. Ned Lamont to work with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to develop legalized sports betting and online gaming in the state, producing sizable revenue gains for the state and helping the tribal casinos deal with growing competition. Expect Osten, if re-elected, to push legislation in an effort to force the governor’s hand.

The senator knows the state has to find the means to support the overworked, undercompensated private, nonprofit social services network that the state uses to provide services for the developmentally challenged, those suffering from substance abuse, the mentally ill and others with special needs. Her knowledge about the need to meet this challenge contrasts with her opponent, Mr. Weir, who during their Day-sponsored debate seemed unaware of the critical role the nonprofits play in meeting the state’s human service needs.

Osten’s support of tolls, which takes political courage given her electoral vulnerability, aligns with ours. Erecting electronic tolls on major state highways is the only practical way of raising the revenues Connecticut needs to create a 21st century transportation system, while assuring out-of-state drivers who use our roads pay their fair share.

The Day, without reservation, endorses Sen. Osten in her bid for re-election.

 

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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