By Scott Benjamin
Bob Godfrey says Washington is a nice place to visit, but he wouldn't want to serve there.
The Washington-Arlington metro area has the highest median income of any place in the United States. . . Stephen Strasburg reportedly whizzes around town in the red Chevy Corvette that he won as the World Series MVP. .. . and it is the city where the "Sweethearts of Soul" - Peaches & Herb - got their start.
Through the years, Godfrey has said, "Congress can't agree on the time of day."
However, the state representative (D-110), who serves much of Danbury's downtown, has been making the nearly 120-mile round-trip commute for 32 years to Hartford, which was just rated as only 47th best among the 50 state capitol cites by Far & Wide.
But, then again, it is where Mark Twain once wrote, Horace Bushnell preached and Morgan Bulkeley governed.
Godfrey said he is passionate about representing roughly 23,000 people in one of the few cities in Connecticut where the population is growing.
He is the deputy speaker pro-tempore of the state House and has served under seven speakers and six governors. Only three current members of the House have served longer.
Now, in a time of pandemic crisis, Washington has become bipartisan.
Not only did Republican President Donald Trump, the Republican U.S. Senate and the Democratic U.S. House agree on the time of day, but they got nearly $3 trillion in stimulus approved since March 27.
But U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants to hit the pause button for at least a while.
So does Larry Kudlow of Redding, who is Trump's director of the National Economic Council.
Reuters reported that Kudlow cautioned, "Well, we just had another big infusion."
He said on ABC News' "This Week" on May 10 that he was part of a conference call with 50 members of the U.S. House, both Republicans and Democrats, on May 8 and was scheduled to have a similar session with a group of senators on May 11.
Kudlow said that the Trump Administration is "collecting ideas" for possible future action to address the economic fallout from the pandemic. Reuters reported that Kudlow told reporters he didn't want to have more stimulus before the end of May.
He said on "This Week" that data from the Congressional Budget Office and private companies indicate that the American economy could have "a very strong second half" in 2020 and there could be "a tremendous snapback of the economy in 2021."
However, Reuters stated that U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said there needs to be a "big bold approach now" after the country lost 20.5 million jobs in April and the unemployment rate of 14.7 percent is the highest since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Godfrey declared, "It is needed and it is needed now. If the house is on fire you don't delay sending the fire department to start spraying water."
He said that, among other things, Congress should halt the remainder of the president's 2017 tax cut and use that money to assist the states.
He said too much of the tax reduction was directed at the upper income.
CT Mirror has reported Connecticut's state budget faces a projected $7 billion revenue shortfall combined over the next three years.
Said Godfrey, "July is when the revenue information will be available, Right now anyone is guessing on what the gaps might be."
He said that he is pleased that the state's rainy day fund was near $2.5 billion at the onset of the pandemic.
Godfrey, who has been spending considerable time at home addressing constituent concerns by phone and the Internet, said the Department of Labor's performance has improved as it is processing an unprecedented number of jobless claims.
"They've gotten the equivalent of three years of claims in two months," he exclaimed. "They were unprepared for the extreme. There are claims from March that they are still processing."
Additionally, Godfrey said there have been delays processing claims for people living in Connecticut but working in New York state and those living in New York state and working in Connecticut.
CT Mirror reported in early May that Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Greenwich) had hinted at the possibility of increases in fuel taxes to fund transportation improvements.
CT Mirror added that the special transportation is projected to be depleted by 2022-2023 - three years earlier than had been anticipated before the pandemic.
In late December Godfrey told Patch.com that perhaps the state should consider a gasoline tax increase since it had been at 25 cents a gallon for the better part of two decades. At the time, there were serious
"I raised the issue as possibly the only way to help out the transportation program." Godfrey said in a May phone interview with Patch.com.
"I don't think we should lead with that," he said. "We need to hash out ideas."
He said in December that the Office of Fiscal Analysis, the General Assembly's budget arm, has indicated that the gasoline tax, which was reduced twice in the late 1990s and early 2000s bringing it down from 39 cents a gallon to 25 cents a gallon adjusted for inflation would have increased from 25 cents a gallon to 37 cents a gallon between 2003 and 2017. He said some "red states" have increased their gasoline taxes.
He said last winter that a boost in the gasoline tax coupled with a fee for hybrid and electric cars, which have become more popular and use less fuel, and a fee for cars costing $50,000 or more could be considered.
Godfrey praised Lamont's performance during the pandemic.
"He listens, he tosses around ideas and considers the consequences," the state representative said. "He's making sure that people are safe. He's promoted social distancing and masks."
Godfrey, who has received awards for his Freedom of Information initiatives, said his only qualm is the Reopen The State Task Force should be more public in its deliberations.
"The reopening is going to come step by step in gradual fashion," he explained. "The restaurant business will probably come back slowly since you you want to go out, you can't wear a mask while your are eating, It is going to be a while before the theaters and the sports events will be going again. Life is going to be different than it was before mid-March."
"The return to normal is going to depend on the confidence of the people who have been sheltered mostly in their homes," said Godfrey. "I have no idea on how quickly they will respond. But right now there are people out there that are afraid to return to work."
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