Toni Boucher has served Wilton in Hartford for 22 years–the first 12 years as State Representative until 2008, when she was elected to the State Senate. In 2017 she formed an exploratory committee to potentially run for CT Governor, the second time she’s done so. But in early April, Boucher announced that she was giving up the quest for the state’s highest office, opting instead to run for re-election as State Senator.
Boucher faced a good deal of pressure from state Republicans, who finally see a chance to take over as the majority party in the state Senate, which is currently evenly split with the Democrats but November might change that. Re-electing Republican Boucher would certainly help that cause.
Boucher’s Democratic opponent is newcomer Will Haskell, may be just graduating college in May but he’s generating buzz in Democratic circles–and doing very well in the fundraising arena.
In this GMW Interview, we talk with Boucher about her decision, the upcoming race and what she wants Wilton voters to know.
GOOD Morning Wilton: How difficult was your decision to leave the gubernatorial race?
Toni Boucher: It was hard. I really put everything I had into it. I felt really good about momentum I was building–that’s why I didn’t stop earlier. It’s not easy when you put yourself out there like that.
People have been fabulous–in Wilton and all over the state. I’ve had this great, rewarding experience, an inspirational experience, meeting so many from every single corner, going back to my old Waterbury/Naugatuck area, how warmly received you are, and how the message I have of being fiscally responsible but being socially inclusive, really won the day.
There’s such good outcome in the kind of relationships I’ve built across the state. One of the most rewarding things was, some of the Democrats that came forward–two that actually said they’d never donated to anyone, ever, especially to a Republican. To not just get their endorsement, but they would actually put money in the race was really quite rewarding.
But I had to make a choice. I could not run for state Senate and run for governor at the same time. You would have to give up one seat to run for another, and I had to assess, where would I make the best impact in continuing the kind of leadership role in the Senate that probably didn’t present itself until just a couple months ago when two very significant Democratic seats came open, and we have very, very good candidates running in those seats. Really good, seasoned candidates, that our prospects for winning over the Senate became very real.
GMW: During the exploratory campaign, you traveled a lot of the state, and–not that you didn’t know this before but–you spent more time really seeing the different sides to Connecticut. Has it changed your perspective on the state and your role in Hartford?
Boucher: It has. It’s made me feel even more responsible to carry on the kind of leadership position that I have, being a spokesperson for not just our area, but many parts of Connecticut that are also really suffering greatly. What’s extraordinary, from hotel operators to gasoline attendants to restaurant workers, by the way, even to our Stop & Shop grocery stores in our own hometown, the cashiers and the people in line, they all wanted to tell me about how difficult it is for them now in Connecticut.
The state they remember and were attracted to–there was no state income tax, the costs were lower, educational system was fantastic, (it’s still a great education state), and a quality of life that’s better than anywhere. That they feel burdened, they feel that they’ll be forced out, to make other arrangements in their lives, when they didn’t ever expect to do that.
And it’s painful, especially, we’re talking not just about our own children and other children, the families whose graduates from college are not finding opportunities to be here closer to family, but they’re affecting our young families with children in schools, they’re affecting our senior citizens who really feel pressure, and our businesses–businesses all over the state at every income level, are finding it a struggle to take customers. Either customers are leaving or they can’t afford it because they’ve been taxed too high.
The prospect of things like tolls or an increase in your gas tax or increase for buying a tire for $3 here and there, my goodness, it’s just gone too far. They’re just wiping their disposable income they used to have in their pocket, when they could go to our good restaurants. How many of our great historical restaurants, have closed over this period of time that used to be here, some 50 years, some even 100 years, and many businesses like that? It brought it home even more than I already had known, and I feel a certain responsibility now to carry their voices, take on that leadership role in the Senate, if I get reelected, and really try to help turn the state around, particularly if they have new leadership in the House and Senate, and possibly even in the governor’s office.
GMW: You’ve been in Hartford for 22 years. Your opponent says you’re part of the problem, having been in Hartford for so long and as part of the government that got CT into this mess. He says that for any kind of change to happen, there needs to be a new perspective. What’s your answer to that?
Boucher: They couldn’t be more misinformed or dead wrong on that, because in all of that time, until just a couple of months ago, we were in the super minority. When I was in the House, I was 37 out of 151. There’s one party, and one party only, that has driven the agenda. A governor, whether it be Republican or even Democrat now, as Dannel Malloy is learning, cannot get anything done or through or proposed, anything that the House and Senate does not approve. During that time, any proposals we would bring forward would be voted down by the super majority with their plans for Connecticut, and that plan has decidedly failed everyone.
Yet, in the minority from day one, with a Republican governor and a Democratic House and Senate, they wanted to put a super-highway through Wilton, and I stopped it. In 1999, I helped to negotiate a widening of our current roadway. They wanted to close down permanently the Danbury train line. I stopped that, and instead it continues to run. Then, it took 12 years to learn the process, learn the people, get the credibility, and finally get an investment to put in a computerized signal system so a person doesn’t have to get out of a rail car and pull a lever so they can pass each other. Pioneer strategy, right?
Who saved Orem’s Diner? Who helped to put a greenway into Wilton? Who helped to change some of our laws for early childhood and preschool slots for children? Who helped to write the bill to put in the 529 plans, the CHET program, the first ones in Connecticut? Then right up until this year, saved one school in the district, $1.1 million of cost they would have to incur simply because of knowing the Democratic leadership on the agencies that needed to weigh in on this, because of that experience and that credibility?
It’s called effectiveness, and quite frankly they couldn’t be more dead wrong, because right now, Connecticut is in a fiscal disaster, a fiscal crisis that was perpetrated by one party and one party only, and that’s Dan Malloy. The majority leadership in the House and Senate, that House and Senate now is not only dominated by one party, but also by the party that is now more recently controlled by the state employee labor union that is costing our state so much and is doing this.
The last thing our state needs is a situation that just adds to the majority of that very policy-driven group that has led Connecticut in disarray and fiscal mismanagement, because that fiscal responsibility of bringing Connecticut back to a state that had the financial resources, is critical, absolutely critical to us being able to support our schools, to support our disabled, to anyone who needs help in our state, because that is what is being heard. I think they’re working hard to make a case that is very difficult to make because everyone I talk to says, “We’ve got to change the balance of power that is there now.”
Being in the minority, not able to pass the budgets we wanted–that just happened this last year. The Republican budget passed House and Senate, but it could only pass with Democratic individuals that crossed the aisle. A Democratic governor vetoed it, and there were not enough Democrats to overturn that veto. Again, to continue in those fatal policies is exactly the wrong direction that our state needs to go.
GMW: I’ve got a two-part follow-up to that, because you said something very interesting at the start of our conversation about having a message of more conservative fiscal policies, and–
Boucher: –and social inclusion?
GMW: –and social inclusion. On the one hand that seems to be an appeal to crossover, independent voters, which Connecticut has a lot of, but it’s different than what a lot of people describe you as being a very, very conservative, Trump-aligned Republican on the other hand. How do you reconcile those two images?
Boucher: It’s so easy, because I have a record, actually, that other people don’t have. People can talk about that, but they can look at my record of being pro-choice, my record of voting for a global warming bills, my record for voting for public financing bill, my record for voting with Connecticut Against Gun Violence and helping to actually write part of the bill, that was the seminal gun bill in the country, the strictest one in the nation. They would have a hard time, especially since I’ve been rated an environmental champion for so many years, and also a children’s champion, and voting for gay marriage and voting for including sexual orientation, our anti-discrimination laws. There is so much in the record that actually counters any claims of that sort.
GMW: Okay. Then the second follow-up is, there’s a lot of partisan talk in what you’ve said, “It was the majority, it was the majority.” Assuming you’re back there, how do you–
Boucher: Well, that’s not partisan, that’s the truth. That’s the reality of the political environment we have had to face, especially in the last eight years, when we put 10 alternative budgets on the table and the governor shut the door and wouldn’t even talk about it time and again. Where’s the partisanship coming from? The partisanship is coming from the governor’s office, and that’s the problem, to the point where both Republicans and Democrats went off to compromise a budget on their own because they couldn’t work with this administration.
GMW: You don’t see any problem working across the aisle?
Boucher: Oh my gosh, no. In fact, I’ve been known to be someone that they regularly work with across the aisle. I have worked very closely, now as a leader on the Transportation Committee, with the Transportation Committee–two out of three being dominated by the Democratic leadership. I work on the Education Committee, and in the most bipartisan way, we get our bills done together. In higher ed, probably the most progressive of all of the state senators, Senator Beth Bye from West Hartford, she and I worked seamlessly on the Higher Ed Committee and got all of our bills on consent at the time we worked together.
I think that is absolutely critical to the process. You have to work together, especially when we’re so close now in numbers, and that actually compels the other side to work closely with Republicans now. Before they didn’t have to work with us, and they really didn’t, but now they do, and there’s a great deal of communication going back and forth.
GMW: Okay. Let’s move on to transportation and talk about tolls. You’ve been vocal in your opposition. The argument in favor of tolls is that we are the only state on the East Coast that doesn’t have them. You have all of this out-of-state traffic that is using our roadways as a corridor, taking a (for lack of a better word), toll on the roads and the bridges and our infrastructure.
Especially in a state that’s starved for revenue, we’re losing a tremendous amount if we don’t have tolls.
Boucher: Right, right, and we have to ask a question, why are we starved for revenue? What is the state spending on? It has a huge cost in its labor force, higher than almost any other state. Our state wages are $10,000 more than Massachusetts and $5,000 more per average on New York, but our pensions and our health care is by far so much more expensive and richer than anyone else. It’s $2 for a prescription drug, $15 for any doctor that you go to, no copays or spend-down, you get this for life after 10 years, and the legacy cost on that is huge. Pensions are incredibly generous. They are defined benefit plans, and almost every agency, including the DOT, says that it’s costing them so much that it leaves them very little room for anything else. In fact, our administrative costs in DOT can be between 6-9 times greater than the national average per miles that we have to maintain. They do admit, they said some borrowing costs that are for just operating costs and overhead, not our rails and our roads.
Not to mention that our projects of $500 million or more, between $500-$600 million, and nice-to-have projects, a Busway that people think very few people ride, in fact it costs something like $94,000 per rider to subsidize and won’t pay itself off for 100 years. Imagine the cost of that, when there were very few on our side of the upstate [state legislators] that really supported it. And a train from Hartford to Springfield, Mass., that is now costing a lot of money as well, and questionable ridership, when right here in the lower Fairfield County we really need so much more support. It’s where all the ridership is, it is where there are 4 million rail rider trips a year. It’s the most congested and used in the country, and I have been told by the DOT that in peak times, it’s gone up 18%, utilizing everything we have.
Saying all of that, we do get more in gas taxes, although our excise gas tax is flat, we have a percentage tax on top of the gas tax that goes into every gallon you put in your car, that has gone up in revenues, up to 29% more. It’s not a matter of, do we have the revenue.
We also have a plan that we put forth that again–in the minority we couldn’t get through, but in the majority we might–this is why I talk about, in this election, a balance of power, that essentially without raising the gas tax, without putting in tolls, we’ve shown that we can actually increase the investment in our infrastructure by $500 million a year. That’s not talking about the federal matching to some of that funding. We do have a plan to move it forward, and I can tell you that I have worked really hard.
I didn’t run for election on the school board or in the House or Senate on other issues. I ran because of my educational quality passion. But if you represent this part of the state or our side of town, you have to make transportation front and center. That’s why being a very vocal representative on rails has really made a huge difference. I was called the dinosaur for talking about trains; now everybody is on board with us on improving our rail system. It started right from preserving the Danbury line, when that governor want to shut it down completely, it was improving the line by making it more modern. Yet we still have so much work to do on electrifying that line so it can become compatible with the main line.
I’ve put more parking, double the parking both at Cannondale and at the Wilton train station, and widening the current roadway so that we have sidewalks and we have traffic lights where we needed it, instead of a disastrous super-highway that would have decimated our environment. That’s why I get a lot of support by environmental groups, because I chose the more environmentally beneficial way to this. Not to mention saving Orem’s Diner, and then putting in some legislation that would allow the use of some of that land for our Greenway, or it would never happen, that wonderful Greenway that we have, and protecting and preserving Ambler Farm.
I could go on and on, but that’s a part of knowledge and experience and learning how the system works and being effective and building bipartisan support on issues that matter. I even had a former mayor of Bridgeport supporting me on the super-highway issue and about environmental issues here in Wilton.
That’s certainly bipartisan in getting others to come along with you and working together as a group. Right now, we’re being successful, right this minute, of not only preventing tolls but also to stop the service reduction in our branch lines, and increasing the rail fares. Right now both Democrat and Republican budgets, although they disagree on many points, on this they have in both budgets to restore the service, not have it be cut. This is all really good news but, boy, so much more work to be done.
GMW: But still, what about tolls. The argument could be made that there’s still significant potential revenue that could come from putting tolls in. With tolls you’re really taxing out-of-state drivers who are using our roadways, paying their share for using our roads.
Boucher: Sure, just as we go through all the other states. Well, let me explain a little bit more detail, because people might get the impression that I’m not for tolls at all. That’s not the case. I do believe in toll roads, I go through them all the time, I have a transponder. By the way, I get a discount because I buy a transponder from New York, and I can buy one from Massachusetts and I can buy one for Florida, and they all will give me a discount because the law says that if we have a reduction for our drivers in Connecticut, we have to provide that same opportunity for anyone that wants to buy it.
Now, if you don’t have one of those and you drive through, There’s a big and high percentage of people that don’t pay, and there’s no penalty if they don’t. More importantly, tolls would be beneficial in Connecticut if we did not have a car property tax, as most states that have tolls don’t have one. Remember, tolls were in Connecticut before we had a state income tax. After a state income tax, the state enacted over 150 more new taxes, but at the same time, when it took tolls out, CT got federal funding reimbursed–we actually got more in revenue than when we had tolls. Add those factors, along with the fact that we have a higher gas tax than the states with tolls, and there’s been no plan to reduce our gas tax, to put in tolls as a replacement type of tax.
Our income tax is not deductible. We can’t deduct items on our state income tax, but states with tolls, you can deduct expenses. Our state taxes estates and gifts–no other state taxes gifts. No other state has a real estate conveyance [tax] the way we have one, and many of them do not tax your pension or social security.
Here is a tax, a toll, being suggested for us, that is being put on top of so many more taxes. That’s what’s driving people out. That’s what driving businesses and jobs out, and because we’re doing that, even though we’re taxing them higher and more taxes are coming in, it’s still not enough to cover Connecticut’s expenses.
If we cut those expenses, if we manage our transportation money better, didn’t raid it on occasion, we would have the money for our roads. That coffer would not be running dry, because in actuality, it really isn’t. It’s that they’re taking that money and using it for other purposes.
I believe I have a pulse of the public, I have surveyed them multiple times, and the vast majority agree. Otherwise, again, the Democrats are in the majority, they want this toll bill, the governor’s in the majority, they could outright vote this right in, and guess what? They don’t seem to have the votes right now, because the public has said, “You’re not using the money you have responsibly.” Any proposal for a lock box has some escape clauses in it, so that in case there’s a financial crisis, they could still raid it, which puts us right back where we started.
Now they’re backtracking, and the latest I hear is that, “Oh, maybe we’ll have a bill that says we’ll let the DOT study how they could implement it, and then they have to come back to us for another vote,” but that’s just a back door to getting tolls in. I would still oppose that strenuously.
In addition, they had a bill that says, “We’re going to create a transportation authority, a brand new authority at the DOT just for tolls, and we’re going to staff it, costing us a lot of money and more overhead.” They’ll make all the decisions and the legislature will not ever have the ability to weight in on that decision going forward. That’s of course something that we really oppose, because that’s how we got the increase in the rail fare. It didn’t reside in the legislature. It was just at the DOT, and that’s why these budgets have to put in a law and a bill to rescind those fare hikes, and rescind any service cuts to our branch lines.
GMW: Okay. I’m going to ask about some topics–either how you would vote, or how you have voted. Bump stocks and ghost guns. It’s a timely topic. If it comes up, how would you vote?
Boucher: Well, I would vote to prohibit bump stock and ghost gun sales.
GMW: Okay. Let’s talk about the vote that happened on Justice Andrew McDonald. People have criticized you for what seems like a down-the-party-line vote on what would have been the first gay State Supreme Court Chief Justice.
Boucher: And a Democratic Senator for Waterbury that voted against him vehemently. Also, five in the House, by the way.
I’m happy to vote on it, and they’re trying to frame this in a way that is false. As a freshman legislator many years ago, we had anti-discrimination laws in Connecticut but one of the things that was missing was discrimination for sexual orientation. I helped to put that in place. I also voted and helped out an amendment to put gay marriage in place in the Senate. I supported and voted for Andrew McDonald to be put on the Supreme Court, even though I was concerned that he had never, ever severed on a bench as a judge before. It’s highly unusual and unorthodox to put someone that’s just the state Senator, a friend of the governor, and someone that is a lawyer, just go from being in a law firm right to the Supreme Court.
I did vote for him, I even attended his wedding reception when he got married. But this is a top management job. It is about managing all the courts. It’s not about your intellectual capability on a case that you’re adjudicating. I was not certain how I was going to vote, but I had staff and also retired staff that served in the court with Judge McDonald, who did not feel, based on their experience, that he had the management skills and temperament for the job. Most importantly–and this is why I’m curious as to why it became increasingly partisan–the Democratic-led and controlled judiciary committee, which has to vet all of these recommendations, gave him a negative recommendation.
That’s very rare. I don’t know if it ever had happened before, a negative recommendation based on all of the testimony and people that came forward. Probably the reason for that, was [McDonald] legislating from the bench, during the time that he was there; that this is supposed to be where neutrality resides, and that partisanship or your own personal preference because of a particular bill or a law. There were a number of situations pointed out where individuals felt [McDonald] should have recused himself from a very controversial situation and refused to do that.
It came out not in favor, but that he would continue to serve very well and have a strong voice as a justice on the Supreme Court. That was not going to change.
This was just about who gets to manage the rest of the courts as the Chief Justice, and that position particularly has to be a very, very unbiased, nonpartisan, with a neutral temperament. But in honest truth, I have never seen so much outside influence on a judicial selection ever. I don’t think anyone has ever seen this. It became so politicized by Judge McDonald’s friends and colleagues outside of that, putting pressure with robocalls and TV ads–it was very, very disappointing how much politics was interjected in a judicial process. We’ve never seen anything quite like that.
There’s so much that goes into this. In all these years, you’re learning every year, learning all the time. You don’t have all the answers, and things change all the time. That’s the more exciting part of the job. Look at electric cars, and how do we tax something [new] going forward. How about Amazon and how it’s affecting our retail stores locally, when they have to charge sales tax and Amazon and other online retailers don’t? How about autonomous vehicles? It’s really pretty cool, in a sense that you really get to have to think about and deliberate and listen to the public weigh in.
This is an amazing district, it has really talented, intelligent, experienced constituents that have oftentimes much more experience or knowledge of a particular subject. Having them weigh in, reach out to you and explain or give their viewpoint, just helps the process so much more. It’s what I really love about it, that you get to learn along with them in the constantly changing environment that you’re in.
GMW: That’s a good segue to ask the next question. Socially, culturally, there’s been a major change on marijuana laws, both recreational drug use, but also medical marijuana. That has changed around you, yet you have been very vocal on your opposition to that. The laws have changed. Talk about your vote on that and if your perspective has changed.
Boucher: Well, on that point I am constantly learning. I’m seeking out medical information as it becomes available, and hopefully more and more as they are testing the drug for the kind of properties in it that could actually be beneficial health-wise, and to remove the components of it that are very detrimental for a growing brain, a person’s addictive side of their personality. Even nicotine has properties in it that are very beneficial for a person, but they have a lot of carcinogens in them.
We say we want 25-year-olds not to smoke or younger because its detrimental. Marijuana is no different, really. Even those young children that might use it, you’ve got to weigh the benefits versus the kind of permanent damage to the brain it can produce.
From a public safety standpoint is where I’ve leaned more heavily. I’m concerned about public health, I’m concerned about our young people’s health. They’re even trying to walk back the laws in Colorado, according to their governor, because of the devastating effect it has been having both on their crime rate and on health issues they’re confronting now as a state. I continue to listen carefully on this, but to this time, it seems that the health care concerns still are out there and haven’t been addressed yet, but I do believe that more research is being conducted by excellent organizations. Yale has done a lot of landmark studies on this. They do say that there still is a problem with regards to other mental illnesses and higher instances of–30% higher–schizophrenia and also the issues of brain development and heart and lung disease, as well as issues with regards to cancer.
There’s new [medical marijuana] delivery systems that are being done, there’s ways to take out the addictive or even the brain damaging aspects to it that can be a very good alternative to other types of medicinal properties. The state has not been able to get recreational use through, because people on both sides of the aisle are very concerned that we have a huge addiction problem and an overdose death problem that is higher than anywhere in the country. We don’t want to send a message that it’s okay. We want people to be cautious and to be concerned about health.
GMW: Well, when you’re talking about overdose, we’re not talking about marijuana, you’re talking about opioids.
Boucher: Unfortunately, every heroin addict seems to say that they started with pot, but not all pot users certainly become heroin addicts. But we have a prescription drug problem that’s certainly associated with it. One of the things that has been found to be true is, with early pot use, you also develop a tolerance and have to move up the scale of addictive types of drugs, whether it’s cocaine or heroin or fentanyl, so on. Again, anything that has a potential to be dangerous we should proceed with great caution.
GMW: Okay. Early voting.
Boucher: I’m so glad you brought that up. First of all, I’m highly supportive of a “no excuse absentee ballot.” Anyone that can’t be there, finds it not convenient, should be provided an absentee ballot so they can certainly have maximum flexibility. But I’m still opposed to early voting. Just take a look at what can happen at the last minute. Who would have ever guessed that [Congresswoman] Elizabeth Esty would have a problem of ever getting reelected again? There are things that come up that you have no idea that can happen, and can happen two weeks before an election. I think we need to be able to provide people with the max amount of time to get to know their candidates, know what their positions are, or something happens in their public or personal life that would change a person’s opinion or a vote.
GMW: But with Elizabeth Esty, there’s no vote right now. It’s not close to any kind of–
Boucher: No, there’s no vote, but imagine if all of this came out two weeks before reelection.
There’s just too much that happens in politics. I’ve watched it and I’ve seen it every time. Unusual occurrences, politics, every day the landscape can change. I think early voting could put some people in a difficult position to say, “If I had known that, I might not have voted in this way or another,” and it can hurt either side for that matter. Given all of these primaries that are occurring and changes that can happen with different candidates and so forth, people can drop out, people can come into a race at the last minute because of some incidents that have occurred. I’m still not convinced it’s a good idea right now, but again, many of these things, including the National Popular Vote, I’m still learning a great deal about it and what the pluses and minuses could be. Right now, I’m hesitant about [early voting] because I do think that we’ve seen great examples of new information.
GMW: What’s your stance on paid family leave?
Boucher: I put that in the same bucket right now with the $15 minimum wage increase. Those are important benefits that employees could really need or make use of. The problem with Connecticut right now is that it’s put itself in such a terrible financial condition that what might’ve been really bipartisan may get increasingly more difficult to put in place because our businesses are struggling so badly.
There’s some [legislation] that could be easily voted for, but the particular ones that are on the table right now include any part time employees that might have made $2,300, which puts our YMCAs at risk, they’re very much opposed to it, and a lot of nonprofits at risk, and very small businesses that are at risk. Right now, anything that really hurts them, we should be very cautious about. They have come out strongly opposing this right now, because they’re barely able to keep their heads above water.
GMW: You still have citizens who may not be the business owners, but who are the employees who are there saying, “Well, what about me?”
Boucher: If they knew that they were going to be assessed on their paycheck, half a percent on their gross income of new tax to pay for this–this is what the proposal is in Connecticut–of any amount of salary, any amount all the way up $128,000 a year, how would they feel about that right now?
What we’re hearing from our businesses is, they give their employees the time that they need if they have a really serious family condition. This particular bill though goes much further than any of the other paid family leave [bills]. There’s no limitation. You can get 12 weeks once a year every year that’s out there, depending on the need. A business now has to figure out if there’s two or three or four or 10 employees, how to cover that position for that period of time, in addition to the taxing element. In addition, there would be many businesses having to account for those part time employees, like YMCAs and nonprofits, they tell us they don’t even have the staff to do it. It also includes 18 new employees at the state’s Department of Labor, and I think it’s something like $15 million–where is it going to be coming from?
It’s a great idea, but Connecticut has put themselves in a financial bind, in a position to not be able to move forward with some really good, nice-to-have, good-to-have proposals. That’s really the story that we have going on here.
GMW: Since you have decided not to go for the governor’s office, is there anyone at this point who is running, who would do a really good job?
Boucher: That’s a question everyone is asking me. I can’t go through a local grocery store without someone stopping and asking me that question. It is very difficult for me to endorse anyone at this time. I’m still weighing all the options, just like so many people are.
GMW: Tell voters what makes you the right choice to be their state Senator again.
Boucher: I’m focusing ahead into the future. We need to find a way to work in a bipartisan way, to bring fiscal stability and affordability and a way to support our businesses and to create an environment that encourages their job growth. This is what I’m focusing on, looking forward.
To reach a point where we are able to get a more balanced political structure, and in the Senate in particular, so we finally can move some of our proposals ahead to bring fiscal stability and affordability, supporting our businesses that will put them in an environment where there is job growth, instead of punishing legislation year after year after year that I’ve seen in the Finance Committee and Appropriations Committee that punish businesses. They don’t like them to be successful, it seems, because every time they have a profit, they call them profiteers and want to tax it. But we have to concentrate on our roads and our rails by putting money in the critical infrastructure instead of using it for other things like Busways and sports stadiums, and concentrate on rail service, and really, really helping our educational system.
We need to increasingly get to a point where our failing city schools look more like the Wilton Public Schools. We’re going to have to work really hard on that going forward, but it takes, again, financial support and a time when Connecticut actually is in the black rather than in the red year after year.
Right now, given the state of Connecticut’s serious financial problems, you need someone that has been in the trenches, that has learned what the state needs to change, and finally be put in a position where they’re in the majority to make those proposals work; someone with the knowledge of the process, of the people, and the relationships on both sides of the aisle to really help our district move ahead.
I have a really great example of saving one school system $1.1 million based on issues that they had with a school building project that was so key and critical to this district, and it was based on personal relationships with the other side of the aisle, with understanding the process really well, and knowing what can and cannot be done and helping to negotiate what could be done for the betterment of that community.
Right now, you need a seasoned individual that has the trust of the people, who has won both sides of the aisle’s support, by the largest number in the state of Connecticut of any state Senate seat, Democrat or Republican. That has been probably the most rewarding aspect of all of this. I still have the energy to fight on hard for us, but representing both sides of the aisle, as they have supported me in this last election.
I’m still at it, and people have said to me, “Thank God you’re going to be there fighting for us,” because they know we’ve been fighting these battles together in this community for so long, on so many different fronts. From local school board budgets, all the way into roadway issues and train issues and Greenway issues.
There’s still a lot to do. I think we can bring the state back. And our communities too, but to do it working together. Campaigns are very competitive, right? There’s their side and my side, and so on, but when it’s all said and done, all that goes away and we reach across the aisle, we work together. One of the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects is that I’ve developed a personal friendship with people you would never suspect on the other side of the aisle, major leaders on the Democratic side of committees, because they just say, “We like working with you,” and I like working with them. I genuinely like them as human beings. We could use more of that.
We could use those days when you got together and you went out and had lunch or dinner together, and you got to know each other and their families and your family, and they ask about you and you ask about them. That genuine friendship goes a lot way in solving disputes down the road. That’s been good for our community–just look around our community and see the good things that have occurred. In the majority, when we get there, I hope to treat my colleagues as well as they’ve treated me as their partner.
I wouldn’t do this if it didn’t bring you some amount of reward and a pleasant place to be involved in, because it’s hard. The issues really are difficult. You bring them home with you.
There’s three parts to this job: there’s running for office, there’s making laws and budgets, but the biggest part is constituent services. When people in our town call and say, “My house, I’m going to lose it, it’s being foreclosed on,” or people call and say, “My disabled child, I need help,” and even a 99-year-old that couldn’t get his handicapped sticker. Those are the things that don’t make your column, but it’s one of the most important. You have to have a social worker’s mentality as well and care about people. At the end of it, it’s what makes you feel good. Maybe that’s why there’s bipartisan support.
That’s something someone new has to learn. It’s a part of their personality, and it’s also a differentiator. I’m a businesswoman first and foremost, and I’m a part time state Senator. [But] being also a mother and grandmother, I bring those aspects of my experience to the issues in front of us. That perspective really helps.