Commentary: Giving thanks and community appreciation

As we enjoy this special time of year with our families and loved ones. We give thanks for our many blessings. We must pause to think of and continue to offer our support to all those adversely affected by Superstorm Sandy. We must help those who have been displaced from their homes and who continue to struggle to get back on their feet.

I am particularly thankful for the health and well-being of my family and am honored to have been re-elected as the Connecticut State Representative for the 134th District of the General Assembly, serving portions of Trumbull and Fairfield. I am humbled by the trust and faith people have placed in me and will continue to earn their support every single day as their State Representative in Hartford and our communities. I recognize that there is so much to be done within our community with regard to storm recovery. We should work to help those who have been impacted by job loss to move forward emotionally and economically. We need to support our community non-profits for the great service they provide our residents. I stand ready to work and serve based on the philosophy of "Commitment to Community."

Among the many challenges we face in the upcoming legislative session is a debilitating and recurring state budget deficit. Our current budget deficit is projected to be $365 million dollars for the fiscal year ending June 30th, 2013. Legislative analysts indicate that the cost of keeping services at their present level will run more than $1.1 billion beyond 2013-14 expected revenues, and more than $1 billion beyond the fiscal year after that. This entire deficit has occurred even after a historical tax increase of nearly $1.8 billion in our last budget cycle of 2012-2013. In our state budget planning process, I believe we need to curtail our governmental spending to reflect the economic realities of reduced revenue streams.

This deficit will require much of our attention, cooperation and effort to resolve and will have significant impact on our community. State funding shortfalls will affect our local infrastructure, social and educational programs – there will need to be difficult choices. As we prepare to tackle these difficult issues, we should step back and remember how our communities pulled together during the storm and the resulting devastation. We need to apply that same sense of spirit and unity in finding solutions in a challenging fiscal environment.

I am especially emboldened by the recent Fairfield Beach area cleanup effort, started by 3 young friends, Katie Boland, Lindsey Morton and Kelly Niznansky. Their idea of making a difference led and inspired over 1,000 volunteers and local businesses to come together to help their neighbors. There were no political party labels, partisan agendas or bureaucratic infighting - everyone heeded the call to make a positive difference. The response and result was an overwhelming success and a monumental achievement. If the legislative General Assembly can adopt this kind of community-based approach to tackle our economic and political challenges, we would all be much better served.

It is time for hard, honest decisions, which need to be applied to the budget deficit, educational budget and so many other issues that impact our neighbors and community. Let us remember the indomitable spirit of the Fairfield Beach cleanup and apply it to our legislative process. It is what makes us special as a community – practicing the premises of "service above self" and "thinking globally and acting locally."

Rep. Tony Hwang was recently re-elected to a third term in the Connecticut General Assembly. He represents the 134th District, which covers parts of Trumbull and Fairfield. Rep. Hwang is the ranking leader in the Government Administration and Elections Committee and a member of Appropriations and Environment committees. Rep Hwang is a co-founding member of the bipartisan Bioscience caucus.