December 18, 2018

Matt Pugliese (D) Candidate for House District #23

Biography

Matt Pugliese

Matt Pugliese has spent his career working in the theatre industry, beginning at the Ivoryton Playhouse.  He served as Executive Director at Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theatre in Middletown, CT and now as Managing Director/Executive Producer at Connecticut Repertory Theatre. Matt is currently the chair of Old Saybrook’s Economic Development Commission.  In 2012, Matt was named to the Hartford Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” list for his professional work and civic involvement. He holds his BA in Theatre and Masters in Public Administration, both from UCONN.  Matt lives in Old Saybrook with his wife Kristen and their two daughters.

Q1: What is the biggest problem facing the state, why is it the biggest problem, and what would you do to help solve it?

I believe the biggest challenge facing the state are the unfunded pension liabilities.  This constrains the budget and the available resources the state has to invest in other projects and priorities. Priorities is the key word. Connecticut has revenue challenges, and we want to grow our economy, not raise taxes.  I’m not talking about spending more money, but spending money where it is important.

We need to get Connecticut’s spending under control. I’ve spent my career in the non-profit sector, where we have to run on tight budgets and maximize service delivery.  I value accountability and transparency.  We also need to recognize that the state’s spending goes into the community. We need to look carefully to not increase other problems and stressors through shortsighted cutting.  We need a strategic approach.  I will work with the non-profit organizations find opportunities to maximize service delivery and support those in need of help, at the best cost possible.

We need to commit funding to the pension liabilities.  They have been unfunded over the last 40 years, by leadership on both sides of the aisle.  I do not believe that we can re-open negotiations on contracts from years ago.  Not without taking on additional expenses in legal fees. We have an ethical obligation to keep the agreement that we made.  The state has already made progress in negotiations, with the new Tier IV employees pensions being approximately 80% funded.  I have experience around the table as part of a collective bargaining negotiation team representing theatres in our collective bargaining agreement with Actors Equity Association. I have experience working to build consensus with my own staff, consisting of members of five different unions.  We need leaders with experience to take on this challenge and work to a solution that respects our workers and our state.

Q2: What do you think of our leadership in Washington?

I’m frustrated with the partisan politics of Washington. The gridlock in Washington is not serving our citizens.  As a parent, I’m disgusted that name calling and unabashed lying have become acceptable tools of leadership and “debate”.  I am proud that Connecticut sends a delegation of Representatives and Senators that work hard both in DC and in their home communities to fight for our communities and our values.

Q3: What policies or infrastructure do you support at the state level for fostering or managing growth in you district?

We can support workforce development, employee retention and small business growth by prioritizing education, healthcare and paid family leave.  These are initiatives that benefit both business and worker, and make Connecticut regionally competitive with our neighboring states.

I support expanding training programs in our community colleges and trade schools that create a highly skilled and education workforce. We want to prepare our young people for the jobs for the future that will provide a good, living wage. This educated workforce is attractive for business growth and development.  Initiatives including expanding advanced manufacturing training programs in the community college system, partnering with private business to make these programs tuition-free.  I support loan-forgiveness initiatives for college graduates that stay in Connecticut.

Providing high-quality, affordable health care is the most volatile cost for a small business.  It is also one of the most important benefits that workers are seeking in employment. I believe in expanding access to the state’s medicaid program and moving to a single-payer system in Connecticut. This can create stability for both businesses and individuals.

Paid family leave is a benefit that people can use throughout life – whether they are starting their family, taking care of a loved one with an unexpected illness or recovering from their own. Providing paid leave in these situations is a burden on a small business. I’ve myself experienced the stress running a small-business when a staff member needed to use FMLA or left because we were unable to provide these benefits. Paid-family leave would be funded by a small payroll deduction that every employee pays.  It is not an additional cost that small business would need to shoulder. Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York all have instituted paid leave systems. We can’t lag behind our neighbors.

Q4: Why are you running for this position?

I’m running for State Representative because I want to serve my community. My wife and I have loved growing up in Connecticut, and we are excited to raise our daughters here.  We need leaders that are going to stand up for good, effective management of our state’s resources, with long-term strategic vision for Connecticut.  We need to protect our environment for future generations, work to reduce income inequality, create a vibrant, strong economy and ensure access to high-quality healthcare.  We need leaders with empathy.  We need leaders that understand the difference between short term wins and long term success.  I want to help Connecticut grow and continue to be a great place to live and work and raise a family. We need leaders that are willing to listen and to learn – and then lead.

I want good governance.  The job of government is to effectively maximize service delivery for our citizens.  I have over a decade of executive leadership experience running non-profit theatre organizations. I ran Oddfellows Playhouse during the recession from 2008 to 2013.  I understand how difficult it is to deliver service to the community while facing decreasing revenues. I have had to make difficult decisions. I have worked hard to keep a staff employed.  We need collaborative leaders that understand communication doesn’t mean talking, it means listening. We need non-partisan leaders that will build relationships, communicate and collaborate to serve our community.

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