Dems, GOP squabble over Trumbull seniors
The Republicans and the Democrats were back at it again this week, pointing out each other’s flaws when it comes to spending in regard to the town’s elderly population.
Town Council Majority Leader Rick Costantini and Town Treasurer John Ponzio struck first Monday morning with a statement that questioned comments from minority leader and first selectman candidate Vicki Tesoro that were made in March 2002.
Tesoro, who served as PTA president at the time of the comment, was challenged by the GOP for comments she made regarding senior citizens and their ability to afford large spending increases — specifically the Board of Education budget’s recommended increase of 8.3% that year, which Tesoro said should have been higher.
According to Costantini’s press release, Tesoro said: “We do need to add additional monies to the school budget. I do understand that the seniors must absorb the costs of our children. Seniors must remember that when their children were in school someone else was helping to pay for their children’s education.”
Tesoro, who had already defended her 2002 comments twice this month when the issue was previously brought up by the Republicans, told The Times Monday that it was sad Costantini had “to stoop to these levels.”
“It appears that this will just be another election sound bite,” she said. “More politics as usual pitting one group against the other for political advantage. We are not going to do that. We would rather find ways to find common ground.”
In the release, Costantini said that these types of spending increases were the primary reason why the previous administration raised taxes 54% in the eight years preceding First Selectman Tim Herbst’s election in 2009.
“I don’t know any senior citizen in Trumbull who received an 8.3% increase in their Social Security in one year alone, and to suggest that type of increase is one that seniors can afford is irresponsible,” Costantini said. “While Mrs. Tesoro might think that these types of increases are ‘status quo,’ I know I certainly cannot afford these increases and I am pretty confident that an overwhelming majority of hard working families in Trumbull cannot afford these increases either.”
Back and forth
Tesoro, who had presented her financial plan for Trumbull earlier in the day, championed her party’s stance that “we do not have to spend more but spend smarter.”
She pointed to Costantini’s own voting record to indicate he wasn’t fiscally responsible.
“[He] voted for 20.2% increases for elected officials, he sat silent as the administration awarded a six-year six-figure contract with full benefits and a car to a town employee and Mr. Costantni has regularly gone along with fiscal gimmickry of the current administration, such as taking millions from the town savings to cover real spending,” she said. “So, it is at best disingenuous for Mr. Costantini to claim he is a fiscal conservative when his record and that of the administration is just the opposite.
“I guess that desire to hide his own record was the reason Mr. Costantini fought long and hard against the public having the right to make comments at Town Council meetings,” she added. “As for Mr. Ponzio, I have had little interaction with him but I find it curious that Mr. Ponzio sat silent as the town savings plan was raided resulting in a general fund balance that Mr. Lavioe, chair of the Republican Town Committee, called ‘dangerously low’.”
Costantini took exception to Tesoro’s comments in last week’s Trumbull Times when she said that it was “unfair” to examine her record and public positions on spending increases when she was a private citizen.
“Mrs. Tesoro wants the Trumbull voters to look at her experience, but only that experience she deems acceptable,” he said. “You can’t run on your record and then claim that part of that record isn’t fair game for review...
“She is basically telling Trumbull voters not to look behind the curtain,” he added.
Costantini also noted that a person’s record and public positions on issues, whether as a private citizen or a public official, provide a means for voters to assess a candidate’s philosophy and consistency on issues.
“For Mrs. Tesoro to say that her public positions aren’t fair game is certainly not fair to the voters of Trumbull,” said Costantini. “Public comment at public hearings allows a person to speak to their principles and their value system. Mrs. Tesoro’s principles are consistent and clear — she supported budget increases that would have increased spending over 70% in 10 years and, in some instances, supported increases of 12.5% in one year alone.”
Ponzio vs. Musto vs. Herbst
Town Treasurer John Ponzio said that in this election the fundamental choice is one of consistency and stability versus saying anything to win an election even when it isn’t the truth.
“The first selectman and I didn’t find our values in a poll or a focus group three months before an election,” he said. “We have governed in a manner that has kept the tax rate stable, reined in our debt burden, fixed our pension fund and improved our credit rating.”
The treasurer added that it doesn’t take a “crystal ball to know what the opposition would do if given the opportunity.”
“Mrs. Tesoro’s record is pretty clear,” he said in the release.
Then he went after his opponent in the treasurer’s race, Anthony Musto.
“The fact that she chose as her running mate for treasurer a man who voted in favor of the largest single tax increase in Connecticut’s history and who voted in lock step with Dan Malloy in Hartford, it is very clear what they are going to do — they are going to increase taxes and raise spending at levels our incomes cannot sustain,” Ponzio said. “We cannot afford to go back to the old way of doing business in Trumbull.”
Musto called the Republicans’ original senior tax relief program illegal.
“The senior tax relief program he takes credit for was authorized at the state level and first introduced by his Democratic predecessor,” he said in response to Herbst’s Seniors 2025 plan, which was unveiled Monday.
“The only original tax relief program he proposed was illegal, and he should have known this before making irresponsible statements that misled seniors into thinking they would receive a car-tax break,” he said. “Instead, their car taxes increased when Mr. Herbst raised taxes and spending every year since he was elected — taxes that hit seniors especially hard on their cars and resulted in reduced home values at a time they may wish to sell or use their equity for family expenses or healthcare.”
Forward, only forward
Similar to comments made last week, Tesoro stood strong in her stance that now was no longer the time to talk about Trumbull of yesteryear.
“Instead of playing politics and talking about things said years ago, I suggest we talk about Trumbull today and the issues facing Trumbull now like 20.2% increases, highest sewer use rates in the state, the nonsense around community events, our schools and other issues facing Trumbull today,” she said. “That is what people want to hear about.”
Musto looked forward to what would happen if he won the election, and how he believes it would favor the town’s senior population.
“If elected, I’ll continue to seek Trumbull’s fair share of money from the state, and make every effort to put that money to use here in town to serve our residents without adding to property taxes,” he said, “and I’ll do it in 2015.”