Pancakes and politics

Pancakes with a side of politics.

That was the order of the morning in Stratford for U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy on Friday.

The junior senator from Connecticut broached a number of hot button topics before an audience of dozens at the Sterling House Community Center on Friday.

Murphy said the tax bill being presented by congressional Republicans will be harmful to Connecticut and middle class families. The GOP bill, he said, would potentially eliminate the deductibility of state and local taxes and takes away the deductibility of medical bills and student loan interest. Murphy called parts of the bill “an assault” on middle class families.

“There’s no way to sugar coat this. If it passes, it will be devastating to our state,” Murphy said. “It is targeted very specifically to hurt states like Connecticut.”

Murphy said the country’s tax structure is “broken,” but the current GOP efforts to change it are not the right way to do it when it adversely affects states with many Democrats and benefits those with a heavily Republican population.

“My hope is that this bill fails, that it won’t get 50 votes, but then we’ll be able to talk together about how we can craft a tax reform bill that cuts taxes for the right people and we do it together, Republicans and Democrats,” he said.

The end of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program is also a concern for Murphy. Renewing the funding had not been a problem in previous years.

Murphy said lawmakers are also trying to find some solution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows undocumented children who came to the United States and remained in the country illegally to receive a two-year period of deferred action from deportation. Murphy said there are about 10,000 undocumented children in Connecticut and Democrats and Republicans think they should not be held responsible for their parents’ actions. President Donald Trump’s administration rescinded the program in September and the program is set to expire in March 2018. Murphy said lawmakers are working on a solution.

“We’re trying by the end of the year to get something done for them,” Murphy said of the undocumented children, often called Dreamers.

Murphy also talked about gun violence, a major issue of his following the shooting massacre five years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. Murphy said changing gun regulations is a “long, long, hard and difficult fight” and the National Rifle Association is a powerful lobbying group. “But things are changing and they are changing slowly but meaningfully,” he said.

Murphy said there is a level of trauma for children in areas where gun violence happens often. He mentioned that children in violence-prone neighborhoods deal with the release of cortisol, a chemical in the body that is released in response to fear or stress.

“For kids in these neighborhoods, it gets released every day and it pollutes their brains to a point where they cannot learn,” he said. “So it is not a coincidence that all of the underperforming schools in this state are in the neighborhoods with high rates of violence.”

Murphy said people have to consider victims and the people who are left behind when thinking about gun violence.

Murphy also talked about getting the ball moving on redevelopment of the Stratford Army Engine Plant on Main Street. Officials from the federal government and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection are at odds on how much the property should cleaned up.

“This is a unique community asset, a wellspring for economic development for the [town] and the state. We need to get this done as quickly as possible,” he said. “I don’t accept how long the foot dragging has taken on this and will do what I can to get this project accelerated.”

Several town officials were on hand for Murphy’s address, including Mayor Laura Hoydick, Town Council Chairman Jim Connor, state Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-21, and state Rep. Joe Gresko, D-121.

See next week’s Stratford Star for more on this story.