Flanked by legislative and business leaders, Mayor Joe Ganim on Thursday highlighted successes from the recently completed session of the General Assembly including approval to reduce the city’s unfunded pension liability, a thermal loop green energy project for Downtown and mixed martial arts and boxing matches for the Webster Bank Arena. See video above from news conference.
News release from the city:
Mayor Joe Ganim today joined members of the Bridgeport state legislative delegation to review the significant legislative accomplishments achieved for the City during the recently concluded 2017 session of the Connecticut General Assembly. Serious challenges remain and lawmakers have yet to agree on a state budget plan with Governor Dannel P. Malloy to erase a deficit estimated at more than $5.1 Billion over the next two years. However, Bridgeport lawmakers were instrumental in passing key bills that will result in millions of dollars in savings for taxpayers for decades, a major reduction in the city’s unfunded pension liability, and millions of dollars in new economic development, the strengthening of Bridgeport as an entertainment hub, and the launching of a new green energy project that will drastically reduce the carbon footprint of the Park City’s downtown.
“There’s no doubt that 2017 was a difficult legislative session,” said Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim. “But despite the challenges, the Bridgeport delegation worked very hard–together, as a team–to achieve some monumental things that will make a major impact in our community for decades. I am very proud of their efforts and the way our senators and representatives supported each other and stuck together, making sure the city of Bridgeport was strengthened by the Connecticut General Assembly so we can continue to be a hub that supports our whole region. We are very hopeful that Governor Malloy will sign these measures into law, both he and legislative leadership on both sides of the aisle have demonstrated a real commitment to investing in Bridgeport as one of the engines that drive our economy.”
Connecticut House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said, “Our Bridgeport delegation did a great job helping us all to remain focused on working with our cities, and recognizing the importance of our urban centers to the success of our entire state. They also proved to be a great team by working closely together on legislation specifically helpful to Bridgeport, including measures aimed at encouraging increased economic activity there.”
Connecticut Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) said, “Bridgeport is incredibly fortunate to have two extremely effective and passionate advocates in Marilyn Moore and Ed Gomes representing them in the Senate. Thanks to their hard work at the State Capitol, we were able to pass important legislation saving Bridgeport taxpayers millions of dollars, protecting pregnant women in the workplace and reforming our criminal justice and bail system.”
State Representative Jack Hennessy (D-127), chair of the Bridgeport delegation, said, “As chairman of the Bridgeport legislative delegation, I am proud of our ability to work together in a cohesive manner to pass legislation that further invests in our city’s infrastructure, economy and downtown. Even in this tough budget year, the delegation was able to fight for its constituents by passing bills and securing funding that will bring important projects to fruition.”
State Senator Marilyn Moore (D-22), said, “It is my expectation that supporting the MERS legislation, will improve the financial outlook for Bridgeport tax payers who are concerned about the mil rate.”
State Representative Steve Stafstrom (D-129), said, “For far too long Connecticut has underinvested in its urban cores as regional economic drivers. As businesses and folks young and old are increasingly migrating back to cities in search of rich culture and education, walkable commercial districts and an innovative economy, it is urgent that we work together to further invest in Connecticut’s largest city. The legislation we worked hard to pass will help to continue Bridgeport’s recovery as a sustainable job center, sought-after entertainment destination, and great place to live and raise a family.”
State Representative Andre Baker (D-124), said, “This year, the Bridgeport legislative delegation worked tirelessly to pass legislation that propels the city forward. These measures fortify Bridgeport’s standing as a local and national leader in cutting-edge technology and renewable energy.”
“Even in this tough economic climate, I am pleased the delegation came together to deliver for Bridgeport,” said Representative Christopher Rosario (D-128). “We passed a number of measures that will benefit our city on many fronts from entertainment, economic development and energy infrastructure improvements.”
“These projects will go a long way to continue improving our municipal financial standing and making Bridgeport an entertainment destination,” said Representative Ezekiel Santiago (D-130). “I am proud to work with a dedicated and cohesive delegation and am looking forward to seeing the progress we have made for our vibrant city.”
Among the more significant accomplishments of the 2017 Connecticut General Assembly Legislative Session were the passage of three bills with major positive implications for Bridgeport.
· House Bill 7296 “AN ACT AUTHORIZING THE FUNDING OF UNFUNDED ACCRUED MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM LIABILITIES BY MUNICIPALITIES” gives Bridgeport the statutory authority it needs to issue bonds to pay off more than $83 Million in unfunded pension liability into the Connecticut Municipal Employee Retirement System at a considerably lower interest rate than the 8% set by the CT Retirement Commission. The bill was introduced by State Representative Steve Stafstrom (D-129) and achieved significant bipartisan support, passing through the Planning and Development committee and both the State House of Representatives and State Senate by wide margins. It also received key support from State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, Treasurer Denise Nappier, and State Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management Ben Barnes. If signed into law by Governor Malloy, this measure is expected to save Bridgeport taxpayers nearly $70 Million in debt service payments over the next 26 years.
· House Bill 6304 “AN ACT REQUIRING THE STUDY OF THE VIABILITY OF NEW DISTRICT HEATING NETWORKS IN THE STATE” opens the door to the launching of a pilot program in Bridgeport–the first of its kind in the United States–that will use waste heat from a power-producing natural gas fuel cell to provide hot water heat to an entire district of downtown buildings. Bridgeport has been recognized both nationally and internationally for premiering this innovative way of producing both heat and power. It has already proven to be successful in Europe and has drastically reduced the carbon footprint of urban communities by taking entire city districts off the fossil fuel heating grid. In addition to the hard work of the Bridgeport delegation, this groundbreaking new project was aided through the unique bipartisan efforts of State Representatives Laura Hoydick (R-120) and Joe Gresko (D-121) of Stratford, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) of Norwalk, as well as Senator Paul Formica (R-20) of East Lyme. If the bill is signed into law by Governor Malloy, the building and operation of the thermal heating loop represents an economic development investment of more than $90 million dollars in downtown Bridgeport.
Daniel Donovan, a principal at the Thermal Loop developer NuPower Thermal LLC, said, “The Thermal Loop project is a significant milestone demonstrating the City of Bridgeport’s leadership in integrating sustainable technologies for the benefit of its residents.”
· House Bill 6636 “AN ACT CONCERNING MIXED MARTIAL ARTS EVENTS AND BOXING MATCHES” opens the doors to professional mixed martial arts and boxing matches in Connecticut–in particular Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena–by correcting onerous insurance and taxation regulations making Connecticut less attractive for holding such events. The passage of this bill resulted from the strong support of the Bridgeport and Hartford delegations, partnering with legislative leadership and a diverse, bipartisan coalition of lawmakers recognizing the significant economic boost that professional boxing and mixed martial arts can bring to urban areas. State Representatives Chris Rosario (D-128) and Ezekiel Santiago (D-130) played leadership roles in helping to get the bill passed in both the Connecticut House and Senate, negotiating a compromise on an overall entertainment package that includes direct benefits to Bridgeport from legislation authorizing a third casino in Connecticut. Governor Malloy signing the Boxing and MMA bill into law is expected to bring millions of dollars of economic development revenue directly to downtown Bridgeport and strengthen the city as an entertainment hub for decades. A recent MMA single event at New York’s Madison Square Garden brought in more than 20,000 fans, $18 Million in ticket sales, more than $37 Million in overall economic impact including $18 Million in wages.
Both Mayor Ganim and the Bridgeport delegation recognize the hard work ahead as the state struggles to balance the budget for the fiscal year 2018-2019 biennium and are committed to remaining focused on investing in the strength of Connecticut’s urban areas. Investments in education for chronically underfunded schools in impoverished areas are critical to making cities such as Bridgeport places of innovation that attract businesses and a younger workforce in search of dynamic, walkable urban communities. Mayor Ganim and the Bridgeport delegation also strongly believe that the state budget should not be balanced by gutting critical anti-poverty and healthcare programs that end up saving taxpayers millions of dollars in the short and long term. All are pledging to stay vigilant to protect these investments and find a fair way to balance the state budget that improves Connecticut’s overall fiscal health.