Q&A: Paul Formica

A Brief Biography

State Senator Paul Formica represents the residents of the 20th Senatorial District, which includes Bozrah, East Lyme, a portion of Montville, New London, Old Lyme, a portion of Old Saybrook, Salem, and Waterford. He was elected in 2015 and is currently serving his second term.

At the state Capitol, Senator Formica is Co-Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Energy and Technology Committee, and Tourism Caucus, as well as a member of the Commerce Committee.

Senator Formica has been the owner and operator of Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant for 34 years. He served as the First Selectman of East Lyme from 2007-2015, crafting balanced budgets, encouraging bipartisan participation and reaching regional solutions with neighboring communities to improve transportation, public safety and environmental policies. Prior to becoming First Selectman, he served as a member of the Zoning Commission and the Board of Finance.

Senator Formica was past Chairman of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, where he chaired the regional rail committee and served on the regional water committee that resulted in a tri-town interconnection to conserve and share water.

In addition to town responsibilities, Senator Formica has also served in a leadership capacity for many organizations, from Chamber of Commerce President to Chair of the Rocky Neck Heart Walk. He has also supported many causes as a member of organizations such as Rotary and Little League.

At the State Capitol, Senator Formica will push to make state government more efficient through fiscal discipline, work to ease the regulatory burden on businesses, and fight to preserve essential services for local communities.

A resident of East Lyme, he is a widower and the father of four adult children — three daughters and one son.

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

State Sen. Paul Formica

I do not support the reinstitution of tolling at this time for the following reasons:

  1. For every one dollar of federal tax that we pay for gasoline Ct now gets approx 70 cents returned mostly because we do not have tolls. Places like NY; NJ and Mass get about 37 cents back as they have tolls. If we place tolls exclusively at the borders we would be required to pay back the difference since we agreed to this deal back in 1983/4 when tolls in our state were removed.
  2. Toll discussion began because of the potential insolvency of the Special Transportation Fund -STF- which is the fund that provides infrastructure and debt service dollars for transportation infrastructure as well as housing the DMV and the DOT. The revenue for that fund is generated thru revenue sharing (portion of sales tax) and gas and related transpiration taxes that we pay at the pump and elsewhere. From 2011-2015 over $476 million of the money collected to go to the STF was diverted before it got to the STF and additionally, $76 Million was directly swept out of the STF causing some of the stress that we see today in the fund.
  3. That said we most certainly need to catch up on the repair and replacement of our road and bridge infrastructure to be competitive and we need to replenish and protect the STF. See Lockbox ballot question on my web site for more info on that.
  4. Our idea— the Republican capital infrastructure plan- “Prioritize Progress” -(see my website)- was partially incorporated in this years budget and needs to be fully embraced. This plan would shift the payment of capital road and bridge infrastructure away from the STF for now and instead use a portion of the already allocated General Obligation bonds that have traditionally been used by all Governors for discretionary projects. We can delay some of those projects temporarily. This belt tightening would still fall below the new Bond Cap that we negotiated into this years budget and would not affect any bonding needs for cities, towns or schools. This would allow the State to invest about $1.5 Billion in annual road and bridge projects that could be funded in this way.

Question: Residents in Old Lyme and Waterford are currently embroiled in lengthy and contentious approval processes for 8-30g affordable housing developments. Do you believe such disputes are inevitable, and how as State Senator could you help improve this process and outcomes?

State Sen. Paul Formica

The need for workforce and affordable housing continues to grow especially if we want to find ways to keep our young and our retirees here in CT. The struggles in Waterford, Old Lyme and East Lyme highlight the difficulty of these conversations. As First Selectman in East Lyme, while opposing the placement of large developments on environmentally sensitive lands, we instituted Incentive Housing Zones in areas near and in our downtown as opportunities for developers to locate these projects where the Town and our planners thought they made the most sense from a long term planning perspective…mostly downtown. The Hope street affordable project is one block off Main St Niantic is providing a strong customer base for main street businesses while locating people near the services they need.

We also upgraded Main St to be more pedestrian friendly and changed our Zoning regulations to include first floor commercial uses and second and third floor residential uses in the downtown area putting people where they want to be and creating a thriving downtown district. Protecting the intent of 830g is possible with real world solutions in legislation but we must partner with cities and towns to facilitate implementation techniques that will be a win /win and fit into each towns unique personality.

Question: What do you see as the key obstacles and opportunities for the Orsted-Deepwater Wind Project off New London? As State Senator what policies or priorities will you emphasize to help achieve the best outcomes for residents of southeastern Connecticut?

State Sen. Paul Formica

As the current co-chair of the States Energy and Technology Committee I have been focused on working to preserve our base load supply of energy as Millstone station nuclear provides 50% of Ct daily power supply and 30% of New England and 95% of our carbon free power. The plant is extremely valuable as it provides 1500 good jobs and $1.5 Billion in economic activity state wide as well thousands of additional jobs during refueling. We were able to accomplish that thru unique legislation without paying any taxpayer funded subsidy. Next thing we did was to secure the transitioning process thru smart bipartisan supported legislation-SB9 passed last session- for the growth of renewable energy sources including wind/ solar/hydro/ farm anaerobic digesters/ fuel cells and biomass. SB9 included an increase of the Renewable Portfolio Standard-RPS- which mandates an increase to 40% of renewable use by the State by 2030. This will help to accelerate this industry’s infrastructure development providing carbon free power and jobs.

I have been working with Orsted-Deepwater over the last few months to help plan for this exciting opportunity for both our state and city of New London.

The investment by the State thru the Port Authority of $15M to upgrade the port and the Orsted commitment to match that investment bodes well for the off shore wind industry development as well as helping to grow good local jobs as well as a diverse blend of business that the port can handle in the future, both short and long term.

The concerns that our fishing industry have with off shore wind are real and I have been working with both industries to help to address them. Nearly 12 million pounds of seafood are landed annually between Stonington and New London and its important for us to protect and nourish both the emerging wind and our fishing industry and find ways for them to work together as they share much common ground.

We are in relatively uncharted waters as this is the first major ramp up of off shore wind in NE- Block islands wind farm is relatively small by comparison.

Things to watch moving forward:

  • the new port of New London operator will be announced any day and what specialty will the operator bring to the region moving forward
  • how do we- public and/or private- develop and clean up the adjacent land so that the port can be expanded to accommodate this growth and that there is secure financial consideration for the city in the deal moving forward either in lease/ property tax, revenue sharing or some combination with no dependance on state dollars
  • There is a RFP that is currently underway and the results will be announced in mid December to early January which most likely will increase the off shore wind options for New London. New London’s port is the only port from Mass to Chesapeake that has no overhead obstructions that would restrict access making this the ideal port for large props and turbines to be staged and transported in and then out to the site some 30 miles off shore.
  • the development of the freight line connecting to the port will open business access form the port of New London to the North so that areas near Norwich, Willimantic, Columbia etc can be developed to warehouse and/or manufacture components and help to a build a stronger workforce and bring new jobs.

Question: Do you support the development of a State Water Plan for Connecticut? Do you support or oppose the formal designation of water as a public trust? Why or why not?

State Sen. Paul Formica

Having a strong State Water plan is critical for our future and the plan put forth that the Governor directed the WPC-Water Planning Council- to move forward with as written took much time, collaboration and talent to put together.

I was the Chair of the Municipal Water and Sewer Commission in East Lyme when we developed the first in SECT, regional water interconnection stabilizing the water supplies of East Lyme, New London and SECT while planning for the future of water here. Its critically important for the state to recognize the difficult job municipal water companies have to supply water to its citizens and the plan must include ways to help continue with that as well as protecting this vital natural resource in the public trust.

Question: What do you see as the key opportunities and concerns to regionalizing government services across the 20th Connecticut Senate District – Bozrah, East Lyme, Montville, New London, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Salem, and Waterford?

State Sen. Paul Formica

As a former First Selectman and a past Chair of the SECT Council of Governments i am familiar with the struggles that cities and towns have each year providing services to its citizens. Most Town CEOs work together to share what they can, where they can, however more needs to done.

Opportunities to share services exist in many areas including public safety dispatch, revaluation services – for example, East Lyme and Waterford once shared this service saving $100,000 for each town – and vehicle maintenance. Other places to look for savings include insurance services, educational offerings and senior support services. The key will be providing the same or an increased level of service at or below the current costs.

The new ECS – (education cost sharing) – formula we included in this year’s State budget provides stability for districts as they will now have more certainty in knowing their funding moving forward. That said the over reliance on property taxes to fund local services is a model that needs updating. Comprehensive tax reform discussions need to be started so that moving forward municipalities and the State can find effective and efficient partnership opportunities without as much reliance on the burdensome property tax model.