West Hartford Town Council member Chris Barnes has received the Republican nomination for the 19th State House District.
By Ronni Newton
Republican Chris Barnes said he has been observing the state government for years, and has paid special attention since being elected to the West Hartford Town Council in 2013.
“I’ve been following the political and fiscal condition of the state for a long time. It’s clear that the state is in permanent fiscal crisis,” Barnes said.
On Monday, Barnes became the Republican candidate for the 19th State House district, a seat currently occupied by Democrat Brian Becker who announced this week that he will not seek re-election.
Barnes said one of his greatest priorities will be making much-needed reforms to the budget process. “I’m not aware of any ideas from the Democrats in the legislature to turn the state around. Watching the budget cycle, the last minute rush job, it’s a bad process. People in the State of Connecticut deserve better,” he said.
In West Hartford, the Town Council has six weeks to review the budget line-by-line. At the state level, legislators are given “600 pages 45 minutes in advance,” which Barnes said is “just wrong.”
Barnes said that greater transparency is needed, with the budget provided in advance and the opportunity for greater debate.
“We need to look at structural changes,” he said, particularly regarding benefits for public sector employees. He doesn’t consider laying off thousands of state employees to be a very good idea.
The current budget crisis has led to a situation where “the neediest are seeing cuts to their safety net. It’s not fair to them,” he said. Cuts are being made to social services, the disabled, mental health, court counselors.
“As a state we have to become business friendly. We’re not,” said Barnes about his other main priority. Businesses shouldn’t have to be encouraged to locate or remain in the state because of government incentives. Rather, the environment needs to change so that the state is a great place to work and live, so businesses want to come, stay, and grow in Connecticut, he said.
Changing regulations and cutting fees and taxes will send the message that, “We’re open to business, and will help create jobs” and position the state for economic opportunity, said Barnes.
“Right now we have a spending and jobs problem. We need people to stay and we need to give them a reason to stay,” Barnes said. He said he hasn’t seen any structural changes proposed by the Democrats.
If elected, Barnes will have to resign the seat he has held on the Town Council since 2013. Prior to his election, Barnes served two terms on the Republican Town Committee and was a member of the West Hartford Risk Management Advisory Commission.
Barnes, 47, graduated from the University of Colorado and Quinnipiac University Law School He also has a masters (LLM) in insurance law from UConn. He is a litigation and regulatory lawyer and partner with Reardon Scanlon Vodola Barnes LLP in West Hartford, focused on the financial services industry. He is married and has three teenage daughters.
Barnes initially thought he would be running against Becker in the 19th House district, which encompasses a portion of West Hartford as well as Avon and Farmington. “While we disagree on most policy decisions, I do respect the effort and appreciate his service to the state and district,” Barnes said of Becker.
He learned this week that West Hartford resident Derek Slap is the Democratic nominee for the 19th district.
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