Frantz: Incumbent says Senate race is all about the state’s economy

October 27, 2018 GMT

GREENWICH — The economy is not a mere topic of conversation for L. Scott Frantz.

The founder of the Greenwich-based private equity firm Haebler Capital, and 10-year Republican state senator, spends little time in idle chit-chat about how the market is doing or on the rate of taxes.

For Frantz, any mention of the economy is reason to sound the alarm.

But no one listened, Frantz said, until Republicans were able to achieve an 18-to-18 tie in the Senate, and with it a share in setting the state’s agenda and direction.

Suddenly, he said, empowered Republicans were able to draft a two-year, bipartisan budget with long-sought controls such as a spending cap, a bonding cap and a volatility cap, which routes money from capital gains tax revenue into a rainy day fund for the state.

“This budget has monumental changes in it that will fundamentally change the way Connecticut deals with all of its fiscal issues going forward,” Frantz said during a recent day of campaigning for re-election to his seat in the 36th District, which covers Greenwich and parts of Stamford and New Canaan.

Frantz, currently co-chair of the Commerce and the Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees, is hoping more can be done to right the state’s financial ship.

“Our fiscal foundation right now is so weak that funding for programs that are very important to (the Democrats) sbeen reduced significantly,” Frantz said. “They’re starting to see the light.”

If Republicans took control of the Senate, it would be a “real boon to the state,” he said. New initiatives could go through the Legislature to shore up the state’s balance sheet and promote a more positive message about Connecticut to businesses and investors, he said.

If re-elected, Frantz said he would fight to take a closer look at what he calls wasteful spending from state agencies. Reducing borrowing levels is also a priority for Frantz, who wants to stop using bond proceeds on splash pads, baseball fields and other discretionary items until the state is in a better fiscal position.

“Under ordinary circumstances we in the Greenwich delegation would be the biggest advocates for bringing that kind of funding to our district,” he said. “But the state is simply not in a position to borrow any more money for anything that is not completely necessary.”

Exploding debt, with projected deficits of $4.6 billion over the next two years at a time when interest rates for debt service are expected to soon rise, leads Frantz to declare, “We are in such dire straits.”

Part of dealing with the state’s poor finances will have to include taking a difficult look at its pension liabilities, he said.

“These are some of the richest pension plans in the entire nation,” Frantz said. “We simply can’t afford it. We’ve lost a lot of our tax base. We’re not growing our economy. We need to rejigger that, and if we’re successful in negotiating with the unions, that will spur more confidence in the private sector.”

When he first arrived in Hartford, Frantz said he wanted to start right away on the pension problem. But he said he quickly got a “real dose in how the unions operate” because the answer was always “no” to any suggested contract alteration, regardless of the state’s fiscal situation.

“I’ve felt all along that a promise is a promise and we must do everything we possibly can to get to where we need to be,” Frantz said. “However, more recently, with the signing of the (State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition) deal, which was completely unrealistic from a fiscal point of view and the unions’ attitude of absolutely no more sacrifices, we have no choice. Would they prefer a pension plan that gives them 65 or 70 cents on the dollar or would they prefer 10 cents on the dollar? That’s the choice they’re going to have to make.”

The Commerce Committee is doing work to attract startup companies to Connecticut, he said. That includes the entrepreneur’s learners permit, which allows the more than $2,000 in fees new companies typically pay to be waived for the first two years, and angel-investor tax credits that allow investors to receive tax breaks for investment in early-stage companies.

“We need to inspire confidence both in business decision makers’ minds and also in consumers’ minds, and the families that are thinking about moving out of Connecticut,” Frantz said.

Unlike Massachusetts, whose governor he soundly praises, Frantz said Connecticut’s business environment does not inspire trust and confidence. But one area where Fantz wants Connecticut to be different from Massachusetts is on tolls.

“We really don’t need them,” he said. “We have the resources now to take care of the infrastructure needs. Connecticut is hurting so badly on the front of the economy that if we put another tax in, it’s going to have a deleterious effect on the economy. It’s going to crowd out additional spending that will translate into revenues for the state of Connecticut. That’s just a fact of life.”

Instead, he prefers the Republican plan that calls for a lockbox on special transportation funds, getting rid of wasteful spending on transportation projects and ending bonding for non-essential projects to free up money for infrastructure.

With so much to be done, Frantz said now is not the time for change in the 36th District.

“This is the most critical time in our state’s history to get this right,” he said. “The state needs people with fiscal and finance experience.”