Op-Ed: Why I’m running
Updated: Apr 16
I am running for state representative for District 151 in the special election on Jan. 21. This seat became open when Fred Camillo, who served as our representative for more than 11 years, was elected our first selectman.
I am from the private sector and have run an investment management business in Greenwich since 2006. My wife and I are raising our family here and while I did not have the privilege of being born in this town, our three kids were born at Greenwich Hospital and Greenwich is the only place my family has ever called home. I came to America as a student 27 years ago and my candidacy reflects the diversity, vibrancy and openness of our community.
I am running to build on the legacy of Fred Camillo, who worked tirelessly to build consensus, support good fiscally sound and sensible policy and get things done. I am running so that our community can lead in Hartford. Our community is one which leads in business, medicine, arts, science and other fields. I want to make sure that we lead in the policy making in Hartford. I am running because the challenges we face in our district and in Connecticut are a direct result of the policies followed by Democrats in Hartford. When elected, I plan to launch a “Plan for Growth” for Connecticut that will stimulate Connecticut’s poor economy.
The goals my opponent and I have are similar: Rejuvenating our economy, bringing jobs and businesses back to our state, improving our schools and colleges, upgrading our transportation system and protecting our environment. However, our ideas and policies of how we achieve those goals are diametrically different. I believe that attracting new investment to our state, cutting our state bureaucracy and improving the efficiency of our state programs are the three key elements to revive Connecticut. My opponent and her party believe that leveraging the state bureaucracy and giving it additional dollars raised through new and additional taxes are the prescription. I firmly believe they are mistaken.
Attract new investment to our state
We are one of three states in the country which has not recovered all jobs lost in the Great Recession a decade ago (the other two being West Virginia and Wyoming). This can be directly attributed to our state policies which have been hostile to small businesses and the private sector, and have created an environment where businesses and residents have elected to move out. The insurance industry in Hartford and GE in Fairfield are glaring examples. Under Democratic leadership, Connecticut has increased taxes and imposed onerous regulation on businesses and made policies detrimental to small businesses and our residents — examples are the new tax on dry cleaning and a brand new payroll tax on every hard working person including those making minimum wage. I will advocate for a change in course so that we become a destination for investment, not one from which businesses and residents are fleeing.
Cut state bureaucracy
We must cut down the state bureaucracy and make our programs efficient and effective. Connecticut spends nearly $30 billion annually: $22 billion from our state budget and roughly another $8 billion from various federal grants. Our state government employs more than 42,000 people. We need to cut the bureaucracy 2 percent a year for the next decade by investing in technology and focusing on operational improvement. Coming form a private sector background, I believe that investment in our workforce and increasing its productivity and efficiency are critical. The Democrats in power have no interest in this — they consider it an afterthought.
Improve efficiency of our state programs
Our programs can be made efficient and more effective. We spend more than $3 billion annually on transportation (capital and maintenance). A cursory review of the list of projects which we are spending on next year reveals that there are many which seem unnecessary. For example, the state is spending $60 million next year on a parking garage. This is an investment the private sector should be doing, not the state. The $1 billion Norwalk moveable bridge project has been delayed and is over budget. An alternate plan that would have saved more than $500 million was ignored. I believe by investing in efficiency and operational excellence, we can reduce our spending by 10 percent while improving our transportation. This will allow us to vote NO to tolls and still a strong transportation plan. By pursing such plans across various departments, we can save substantial resources and go back to the 4.5 percent state income tax rate which in turn will attract residents and businesses back to our state in big numbers.
Robust policy to protect our environment
The current ad-hoc set of subsidies and regulation are ineffective and cost the state and our residents. Our electric costs are the highest in the country while the reliability of grid is tested by each Nor’easter. That is unacceptable. I will propose a plan to attract investment from the private sector to reduce our greenhouse gases, improve electrification and invest in our electric grid.
Together we can do this. I love my community. After spending most of my career in private sector, I decided in 2017 to focus my energy on serving the public good. I grew up with little (back in India) and my grandparents had to flee persecution during the partition of India. My values drive me to spend my time and energy serving the public and making our community, our state and our country a better place for everyone.
I humbly ask for your vote on Jan. 21.
Harry Arora is the Republican candidate for state representative in Greenwich’s District 151.