Q&A: Melissa Ziobron

State Rep. Melissa Ziobron is running to replace Art Linares as State Senator for the 33rd State Senate District in Connecticut — the towns of  Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, Westbrook.

We are very pleased that Rep. Ziobron has agreed to participate in our series of nonpartisan Q&As on topics of interest to our readers. Her opponent, Norm Needleman, has declined to participate.

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Question: As State Senator, what do you see as key challenges and priorities in passing the next state budget?

Rep. Melissa Ziobron

We have several problems: large budget deficits, built over decades of mismanagement, mainly by not funding pension payments, a stagnant state economy, fueled by uncertainty in the legislature’s ability to live within its means and an atmosphere of extreme partisanship that makes collaboration difficult.

We need to work towards a model that changes the way we budget at the Capitol. Democrats have been content to develop a spending package without consideration of revenue. Reorganizing the budget process should be a priority; waiting to vote on a budget until the last few days of session is unacceptable. A Ways and Means Committee would be a possible solution that could be immediately implemented.

Question: Do you support the reintroduction of tolling in Connecticut? How do you weigh the potential positives and negatives of tolling for residents of southeastern Connecticut?

Rep. Melissa Ziobron

I am against tolls as currently proposed.

I don’t support the lockbox because I believe the language for the restrictions is not strong enough. The executive branch could reclassify line items in the state budget to be paid for by the Special Transportation Fund and add millions in spending, without prioritizing our infrastructure.

We also need to take the politics out of choosing which projects get the green light. Re-instituting the Transportation Strategy Board is critical in future planning. The false promise of a “lockbox without an actual lock” does nothing to protect critical transportation funding.

Question: The average age of residents in the southeastern Connecticut is projected to climb significantly over the next decade. How would an aging population of residents shape your priorities if you are elected as the next State Senator for District 33?

Rep. Melissa Ziobron

During my tenure in the House, one measure I was successfully able to implement into the state budget was a $2 million increase in senior meals. Unfortunately Governor Malloy removed that allocation with a budgetary holdback.

I will fight to reallocate those funds into the meals program. It is a critical social safety net for seniors who are homebound and is a program that improves mental health outcomes. We also achieved significant tax reform on behalf of seniors by repealing the tax on social security and pensions in households making less then $75,000.

In a state with an aging population, we need to redouble our efforts to make sure our local senior coordinators and volunteers in our small towns have the resources they need to be successful.

Question: Do you believe that 8-30g, the Connecticut statute allowing developers of affordable housing to bypass local zoning laws, successfully addresses the needs for housing in the region? As State Senator, what policies or priorities would shape your approach to the issue of housing in District 33?

Rep. Melissa Ziobron

State agencies like CHFFA are dong an excellent job of partnering with private development to diversify the housing stock in our state. One of the major problems we face is the lack of affordable housing, not just for low income, but young professionals and retirees. If we want to grow the state’s economy, we have to make it attractive and affordable for young professionals and skilled tradespeople, otherwise we will continue to lose these demographic segments to other states. I have also listened to legislators debate whether existing housing stock that would otherwise qualify for the affordable status be included. I would like to speak town leaders to explore issues before creating policy.

Question: To quote the former Speaker of the House, “All politics is local.” But as State Senator you would be representing a very diverse set of communities: the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook. Can you highlight a few specific opportunities or concerns for one or more of these communities which you would help address as State Senator?

Rep. Melissa Ziobron

I have intimate knowledge of this district because I have lived here all my life. After putting over 10k miles on my car and driving from Clinton to Higganum, I have fallen in love with special places that I had once only driven by.

Environmental conservation is vitally important. Our state a local municipalities have done great work in protecting open space, the lower Connecticut River valley and the shoreline.

More broadly, I think our region of the state should continue investing and promoting tourism, as this sort of commerce supports thousands of business across the 33rd district. The state should do as much as it can to support and bolster small business, particularly light manufacturing, regional farming and cottage foods.

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Melissa Ziobron is a lifelong resident of the 34th District with an extensive record of community service. She serves as Assistant Minority Leader and continues her role as Ranking Member of the legislature’s influential, Appropriations Committee; which is responsible for assembling the spending portion of the state budget. Now in her third term, she was reappointed to the Environment Committee and holds a new role on the General Law Committee. She also serves on the Connecticut Legislative Sportsmen Caucus, the Connecticut Alcohol & Drug Policy Council, and as a representative to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. In 2017 she was named a State Park Champion by Connecticut League of Conservation Voters and Legislator of the Year by Connecticut Citizens Defense League. In 2018 she received the Excellence in Land Conservation award from the Connecticut Land Conservation Council. She previously served on the legislature’s Public Health and Children’s Committee.

Would you like to learn more about Rep. Ziobron? Click here.