In an interview, State Senator Will Haskell, a candidate for re-election, discusses accomplishments from his first term, priorities for the next Legislature, and topics of current interest.
The full video of the interview, above, runs 12 minutes.“Two years ago,” said Senator Haskell, “this community really took a chance on me.” He added that he is “in awe of what we’ve been able to accomplish in just two years.”
Accomplishments: paid leave, gun laws
For accomplishments, the senator first cited passage of paid family and medical leave, which, he said, is a national model, one that means “no one in Connecticut will be forced to choose between their family and their career.”
Connecticut also set a national model for containing Covid-19, said the senator, and is proud that the Legislature passed “strong gun laws” in 2019.
One such law, championed on the Judiciary Committee by Senator Haskell, is called Ethan’s Law. It mandates safe storage of guns at homes with children, whether the weapons are loaded or unloaded.
Senator Haskell also supported a measure to ban ghost guns, kits for firearms without serial numbers that could be ordered online without a background check. “We know these laws are going to save lives,” said the Senator.
Partnering with business to relieve student debt
The senator is also proud of legislation that “didn’t get very many headlines,” a measure aimed at relieving student debt. “Connecticut has the highest student debt per capita in the entire country,” said Mr. Haskell.
The problem, said the senator, is “how do we get young people to stick around in Connecticut.” The “vast majority” of his own generation, he said, “decided to pick up and start their careers elsewhere.”
The legislation provides a tax credit to businesses that hire recent graduates and help them pay off student loans. It received broad bipartisan support.
Senator Haskell said student debt delays the purchase of a first home in Connecticut “by about seven years.” He attributes his endorsement by the Connecticut Association of Realtors to his role in writing the bill.
Opposition to school regionalization
“I always ask new residents what makes them choose this community,” said Senator Haskell. “Time and time again they tell me it’s the high quality of our public schools.”
When school regionalization was first brought up in 2019, “I stood up and spoke out against it on the very first day,” he said, adding that it meant speaking out against his own party and its leadership. The senator said he also testified against the bill, which never made it to a vote in the State Senate.
Of the issue, Mr. Haskell said he sees other campaigns trying to “wield it as an area of division, when there is really no disagreement here.” The senator said he would like to see improved computer science education and more funding to allow students to return to school safely.
Connecticut’s fiscal health
“In many ways, the picture is bleak,” said the Senator. But a “tiny bit of good news” is that preserving the rainy day fund leaves the State better able to withstand the impact of the pandemic.
Senator Haskell also is pleased that State employees now get a fully-funded, less expensive pension plan. He described this as a departure from decades where expensive, unfunded pension obligations accumulated into a mountain of debt. “I spend a lot more time thinking about tomorrow’s taxpayers than trying to relitigate yesterday’s mistakes,” said the senator.
On the present fiscal challenges, “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mr. Haskell. “We just need to keep our heads down and make fiscally responsible choices to right the ship.”
“We need to build a community that’s more affordable,” said Senator Haskell. Teachers, firefighters, and others should be able to afford to live in the communities they serve, he said. “Seniors who spent their lives here ought to be able to retire here. Young people who want to start their careers here ought to be able to live here as well.”
As to local zoning laws, “The State can play a role in supporting towns,” said the senator. “But the best people to make Weston more affordable are Weston officials themselves.” At the state level, he said, his focus remains on drawing the “next generation of homeowners and workers back to Connecticut.”
The campaign trail
Senator Haskell said the Capitol being closed most of the year shifted the main part of his job from legislation to constituent services, including helping residents navigate the unemployment application process.
He isn’t knocking on as many doors as last time, he said, adding that his campaign has had to “think outside the box to try to meet voters where they are,” including virtual Town Hall-style events. “The overarching theme,” he said, is to make sure he is accessible at all times. “We’re always ready to lend a hand.”