2020 Candidate Questionnaire

Sen. Gennaro Bizzarro

Republican – 6th Senate District (Berlin, New Britain & Farmington)

#1) BACKGROUND: Community services for people in need are funded by state government through contracts, grants, and Medicaid. Over the years, community nonprofits have been cut in budget after budget, causing significant reductions in funding for community services and harm to the people of the state. When faced with cuts, community nonprofits cannot raise taxes or prices, forcing them to cut services, lay-off employees or close programs. This is a model that cannot sustain itself – and it puts Connecticut’s quality of life at risk. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unanticipated expenses for Personal Protective Equipment and more, revenue losses as people are avoiding in-person services, and constantly changing guidance on staffing ratios, etc.

QUESTION: If elected, would you stand-up in your caucus and tell your colleagues to support increases in funding for community nonprofits?
Please check one:
Yes: __x_
No: ___

#2) BACKGROUND: Community nonprofits are exempt from paying taxes by state and federal law because they provide services that would otherwise need to be provided by government. Nonprofits do not pay federal and state corporate income taxes for their charitable activities, donations to nonprofits are tax deductible, and nonprofits are exempt from Connecticut’s sales tax and local property taxes. Recently, there have been efforts at all levels of government to weaken the tax-exempt status of nonprofits, most notably at the local level with municipalities assessing property taxes to property used for charitable purposes.

QUESTION: Would you support legislation to clarify that community nonprofits that provide essential services are not subject to property taxation?
Please check one:
Yes: _x__
No: ___

#3) BACKGROUND: Even though community nonprofits deliver more than 90% of residential services to people with Intellectual/Development Disabilities (I/DD) and 60% of clients served by Local Mental Health Authorities in Connecticut, the State continues to operate some of these services itself, with State-operated facilities staffed by state employees. The State and nonprofits provide the same services, (and substantiated quality of care) but nonprofits do so at half of the cost (i.e., nonprofits negotiate medical and dental insurance every year, while the State is locked into a contract; nonprofits don’t have long term debt obligations associated with healthcare and retirement plans, nonprofits can more easily manage overtime, etc). Given the reality that thousands of state employees are expected to retire by 2022, the State could use this upcoming biennial budget to redesign the service system to be more modern, efficient, sustainable, and simply help more people.

QUESTION: If elected, would you support converting more state-operated services to the nonprofit sector? If not, how would you ensure that state funding is able to help more people?
Please check one:
Yes: __x__
No: ____
Additional Comments: Non-profits serve an invaluable role in our communities. A recent study by Deloitte’s Monitor Institute suggests that 10 to 40 percent of nonprofits could consolidate or close their doors during the next 12 to 18 months. A loss of this magnitude could remove many vital resources and points of access for the people of our state, as well as protections that assist our most vulnerable populations.

In addition to that risk, we must also recognize that some non-profits are better able and suited to meet specific needs in a more cost-efficient manner than our government can currently provide. Establishing efficiencies and finding meaningful cost-savings need to be an imperative goal as our state faces an impending, likely prolonged and possibly disastrous deficit. We cannot continue to operate with a bloated government sector that condones or tolerates runaway spending and waste. We must begin to live within our means and entrust local non-profits who are executing this work more proficiently to drive these critical efforts.

#4) BACKGROUND: The nonprofit arts and culture community enhances Connecticut’s quality of life. The arts make our communities better places to live and work – they create jobs, generate revenue, and are key considerations when families and businesses are thinking of locating in our state. A recent study found that Connecticut’s nonprofit arts and culture sector generates $797 million in annual economic activity for the state, supporting over 23,000 jobs and generating $72 million in local and state tax revenue. Yet all this economic activity is at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many arts and cultural organizations that offer live performances have suspended all events, as some venues cannot be inexpensively reconfigured to social distance seating and/or improve ventilation. Further, major fund-raisers, another important source of revenue, have been postponed until further notice while general donations are also down as more people are unemployed.

QUESTION: Would you support state funding to keep art and cultural institutions in business until they can get back on their feet after the pandemic?
Yes: _x__
No: ___

#5) BACKGROUND: Community nonprofits across Connecticut serve over 500,000 people, employ 117,000 and spend $29 billion annually in Connecticut’s economy. Nonprofits contribute to our state’s communities, economy and quality of life; they support the developmentally disabled, feed the hungry, provide behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, and help prisoners re-enter their communities. Nonprofits also enrich the state through art and culture — providing visual arts and performances and preserving our state’s historical landmarks.

QUESTION: What has been your experience with nonprofits in your community?
Answer:Our economy has been severely – and possibly permanently – impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The non-profit sector in particular has been battered as many organizations struggle to balance an increased or steady need for services with reduced funding and capacity.

In my many years as a New Britain resident, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about, work with, advocate for and/or serve as a volunteer at many local non-profit organizations, both personally and professionally. That includes Klingberg Family Centers, House of Heroes, Boxes to Boots, CCARC, the Nutmeg State Games and so many more worthwhile organizations. Each of these experiences has demonstrated how the needs of our community are being successfully addressed by our non-profit community. In some cases, these experiences have shown me how much more work needs to be done to support these organizations and the people they serve.

On a personal note, I want to share that I can relate to the challenges faced in the non-profit sector. My wife has worked in the non-profit sector for two decades, and she, as well as nearly 200 others in her organization – were recently laid off as her organization works to balance a budget against their new financial reality. Times are incredibly tough for many organizations that do valuable work in our communities. We need to preserve the vital programs and services that they provide; and keep our skilled non-profit work force on the job.

The mission of each of our non-profit organizations in Connecticut is to make positive change in our community – whether by enriching arts and cultural exposure or providing direct aid to those who need it most. Legislation that supports critical non-profit work, creates better efficiencies and is fiscally responsible will always have my support.