Transportation for All
The Waterbury Branch Line, which runs through the heart of the Naugatuck Valley, has been neglected for years. Service is unreliable and ancient. Commuters complain about slow and late trains all the time. Unfortunately, the Waterbury Branch Line’s woes are not unique — they are representative of Connecticut’s broader transportation system, which is crumbling, inefficient, unsustainable and expensive. Low-income residents are shut out of jobs and crucial services by a patchwork public transportation system. Connecticut’s economy is stifled by the immense effort it takes to move from place to place without a car. 38% of Connecticut’s carbon emissions come from transportation. There is, however, political momentum for a large transportation bill. Governor Lamont’s CT2030 plan was rejected due to contention over tolls, but the issue is not going away.
We need to build an affordable, accessible, zero-carbon public transportation system. Justin believes in prioritizing public transportation over highways; modernizing and expanding service on existing rail and bus routes, including the Waterbury Line; exploring opportunities for new rail, light rail and bus routes; and incentivizing sustainable urban planning.
READ THE FULL PLATFORM HERE
To afford a modest two bedroom apartment, a worker in Connecticut needs to make $25.40 an hour — almost two and half times the state’s minimum wage. 256,900 people in Connecticut pay over half of their income to housing. The low-income housing stock in CT has been decreasing faster than residents are climbing out of poverty. Connecticut also remains a heavily segregated state, in large part due to intentional action by local governments — and a lack of strong intervention by the state. All of these issues have been made worse by the private market’s profit-driven and exclusionary provision of housing.
We need a homes guarantee. Justin believes in building new, mixed-income social housing; supporting community-controlled models of housing like community land trusts and co-ops; passing a tenants bill of rights; passing legislation to allow for local rent control laws; dealing with homelessness through unconditional housing; and decarbonizing homes.
READ THE FULL PLATFORM HERE
Mass Liberation, not Mass Incarceration
The nationwide uprising sparked by the police murder of George Floyd has brought about a new reckoning with the deeply racist nature of policing and incarceration. From their inception as slave patrols to the modern era of mass incarceration, jails and cops have forcibly thrown black and hispanic communities into cycles of poverty and violence. Activists are now rallying to defund the police and prisons, and invest in fighting the real sources of crime: poverty and inequality.
We need to take on crime with housing, jobs and education — not jails and cops. Justin believes in: investing in communities; legalizing marijuana and distributing revenue to the communities hardest hit by the war on drugs; decriminalizing drug addiction and constructing a restorative approach as modeled with success elsewhere; divesting from the criminalization of poverty and homelessness and investing in housing, jobs and education; disarming the militarized police; decriminalizing sex work and protecting sex workers; ending cash bail; enacting a moratorium on the construction of new prisons; and shrinking the prison population by diverting low-level criminals away from the system.
A Green New Deal for Connecticut
The science is clear: carbon emissions are causing the climate to warm dramatically, leading to supercharged natural disasters and full-scale ecological collapse. Natural disasters prey on existing inequalities, meaning the effects of climate change are being felt most in poor communities of color, and most of all in the global south. As a developed nation, we have a responsibility to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2040 at the latest. We also have a responsibility to ensure a just transition to a renewable energy-powered, public transit oriented economy. People of color, low-income communities, displaced workers, coastal communities and other vulnerable groups must be prioritized.
We needed a Green New Deal thirty years ago — but we’ll settle for now. Justin believes in stopping the construction of new fossil fuel-burning power plants; enabling Community Choice Aggregation; investing in renewable energy like offshore wind and solar; providing resiliency funds to coastal communities; investing heavily in public transportation; and ensuring a just transition, so that low-income communities of color, displaced workers and others who are on the frontlines of this battle are prioritized.
Ownership for All
There is a crisis in business ownership in Connecticut:
nearly half of all business owners are on the verge of retirement. From 2015 until 2027 approximately 19,000 business owners—owning about 25,000 businesses—will have retired or will be on the verge of retirement. The ratio of buyers-to-sellers continues to rapidly decline with many business owners lacking a succession plan. If unaddressed this will result in the loss of over 285,000 jobs.
Wages are higher at employee owned firms; pay ratios between highest to low paid workers are
dramatically reduced; and employees have more say over the conditions and terms of their labor in worker cooperatives.
To retain and create jobs, provide retirement opportunities, and broaden business ownership, Justin will create pathways for businesses to transition to employee ownership.
Model legislation already exists to create such pathways to
employee stock ownership plans (
worker cooperatives, and
employee ownership trusts. This includes creating a Connecticut Center for Employee Ownership, as based on state centers
already operating in California, Colorado, Indiana, New Jersey/New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont. A Connecticut Center for Employee Ownership will offer technical support and programming for those seeking to transition their business to employee ownership. Justin will also create tax incentives for transitioning to employee ownership, offer loans and loan guarantees, and push for
public procurement from employee owned firms.
Taxing Big Tech and Big Pharma
Tech giants and other multinational corporations have skirted federal tax laws by sheltering their profits (but not their operations) in tax havens abroad. The federal government loses out on 15 percent of its corporate income tax revenue each year due to these practices. But the federal government has chosen not to curb that practice. Connecticut is losing out on federal money but also on revenues the state should collect. Companies like Facebook and Netflix profit off of providing Connecticut residents with digital services (such as through advertising and data collection), but don’t pay taxes on that income. And pharmaceutical companies test their drugs in the U.S., but then they offshore both manufacturing and the rights to sell that drug in a tax haven. They resell the drugs in the U.S. at high prices, but states and the federal government don’t collect taxes on those profits.
Fortunately, Connecticut, like other states, taxes corporations in a different way than the federal government does. The loopholes these corporations rely on aren’t really present at the state-level. There’s no reason why hardworking Connecticut residents should pay infinitely more in taxes on Connecticut income than the wealthiest corporations. We only need to tweak a few rules to make it so we can fairly tax tech giants and pharmaceutical companies for the benefits they get while operating in our state. They include expanding Connecticut’s already-expansive “economic nexus” rule and ensuring it applies to big tech’s and big pharma’s foreign affiliates; denying tax treaty benefits; adopting addback rules; making use of limited combined reporting or worldwide reporting rules; and taxing digital transactions (like data collection) as some European countries have done. The best part? The Supreme Court, decades ago, found
tweaks to be constitutional.
Social Justice & Anti-Racism
As a Black man and the son of a West Indian immigrant, Justin understands that the history of America is a history of racist oppression. From chattel slavery to Jim Crow to the era of mass incarceration, Black americans have been violently exploited for 400 years. Racial discrimination is and has always been systemic, whether in the intentional segregation of housing or the disproportionate burden of policing placed on Black communities. Connecticut is not exempt from this history.
schools are deeply segregated. Black communities are disproportionately
uninsured and afflicted by
pollution. Black women and members of the LGBTQ+ community suffer from
homelessness and violence. The Black-white wealth gap is astonishingly
We need a transformative agenda for Social Justice & Anti-Racism.
Justin will: tackle housing segregation; ensure transit equity by fully funding and expanding public transportation; pass a Green New Deal that combats environmental racism; close the educational achievement gap; fight for Black women and the Black LGBTQ+ community; divest from policing and incarceration; and invest in the schools, homes, health and wellbeing of Black communities.
READ THE FULL PLATFORM HERE
Connecticut has a history of supporting women's legal right to choose. This is a good start, but it isn’t enough. Reproductive justice also encompasses access to healthcare, sexual education and contraceptives. Connecticut has failed to ensure adequate access for all of our residents. In particular, Black women suffer from medical racism and neglect, which often leads to poor health outcomes. Poor communities are underserved by health clinics which provide reproductive healthcare. Women across the state suffer from lack of access to menstrual products, more commonly known as period poverty. Low-income communities, communities of color and undocumented immigrants are much less likely to be insured.
We need to secure reproductive justice as a human right for all.
Justin believes in: expanding funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood which provide contraception and reproductive health care, including medicines like PrEP; enacting laws which protect women of color from medical racism; mandated sexual education in all of our schools, which emphasizes women’s autonomy over their own bodies and safe sex practices; providing menstrual products free-of-charge in all public schools and public buildings; expanding the availability of
birth doulas to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, particularly in Black communities; fighting back against any right-wing assault on a women’s right to choose, including
fake women’s health centers; and a national Medicare For All system that reduces healthcare costs, increases access and provides services like contraception and abortion for free at the point of service.
Justice for the LGBTQ+ Community
Despite Connecticut’s reputation as a progressive state, there are still many issues in the LGBTQ+ community which have not been fully addressed. LGBTQ+ youth, in particular transgender folks and Black LGBTQ+ youth, face high rates of
homelessness, which has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. A shockingly high number of LGBTQ+ individuals commit or attempt
suicide, often due to traumatic social stigma and unaddressed mental health issues. In general, healthcare is far too expensive and prevents LGBTQ+ folks from getting the care they need. Sexual education is optional in public schools, which compounds issues of access to contraceptives, unsafe sex and LGBTQ+ inclusion. Our expensive and exclusionary healthcare system disproportionately hurts the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, the LGBTQ+ community is under attack from the Trump administration, which has
repealed protections in the adoption of children and transgender healthcare.
We need a policy agenda that secures justice for the LGBTQ+ community.
Justin believes in: a housing first approach to youth LGBTQ+ homelessness, which provides housing and support services unconditionally; creating a comprehensive mental health care system throughout the state and in public schools, with professionals trained to work with LGBTQ+ youth; standing up to hateful attacks on transgender high school athletes; ensuring every student receives a comprehensive sexual education; funding community centers to help struggling LGBTQ+ folks, particularly in
underserved rural areas of the state; collecting state-level data so that we can better understand the crises facing the LGBTQ+ community, and the transgender community in particular; removing financial and bureaucratic barriers to name and gender changes; and fighting all attacks on LGBTQ+ rights from the Trump administration.
READ THE FULL PLATFORM HERE
Connecticut’s state parks, waterways and trails are some of our most valuable natural resources. In the 17th district, Sleeping Giant State Park and the Naugatuck State Forest are just some of the beautiful natural resources afforded to residents. Connecticut’s open space is key to the state’s natural scenic charm and quality of life for residents. Our waterways provide recreational opportunities and supply water for towns and cities. However, these resources are threatened by cuts to state funding for open space acquisitions, unregulated toxic disposal and private exploitation of our waterways.
Justin is currently studying to be a marine biologist. He is an environmentalist at heart and in practice, and will always fight to protect Connecticut’s natural resources.
Justin will: protect the Community Investment Act from further cuts; explore innovative sources of revenue for municipalities to acquire open space, like the proposed 1% tax on real estate transactions; ban PFAs and other harmful chemicals; fight against proposals like the New Britain Tilcon strip mine which would harm our watersheds; and vow to keep water in public trust — not sell it off to corporations like Niagara Water for private gain.
Taking Care of Our Seniors
All Connecticut residents deserve a decent, happy retirement. To make this a reality, Connecticut needs to invest in its seniors, by ensuring that every retiree has the healthcare, social security, housing and social support network necessary to thrive. The holes in our senior care system have been exposed by COVID-19, as Seniors, who are more susceptible to the pandemic, have suffered the consequences in higher numbers.
Justin will always fight to protect Medicare and Social Security funding for our seniors. Justin believes in building mixed-income social housing that would include Permanently Supportive Housing units (PSHs) for seniors, to ensure that no senior has to struggle with housing instability. Justin will take on the pharmaceutical giants which take advantage of seniors with high prescription drug prices and advocate for out-of-pocket cost caps. And in the midst of COVID-19, Justin will fight to make sure Connecticut’s seniors get the resources they need to survive. With Justin in the state senate, seniors will not be left behind.
Healthcare is a Human Right
COVID-19 has exposed America’s for-profit healthcare system for what it is: exclusionary, dangerous and only beneficial to healthcare executives and pharmaceutical profiteers. All of the missteps which have made COVID-19 so much worse than it should have been — from the slow rollout of testing to the massive charges for treatment — can be linked to the fact that our healthcare system is designed to make a profit, not provide care. In Connecticut, far too many families pay exorbitant costs just to maintain a basic standard of life, leaving them with less money to cover similarly high costs of transportation, housing and food. Almost all health insurance is tied to employment, which means COVID-19 and the mass unemployment it created has caused uninsured rates to skyrocket past the pre-COVID rate of
7 percent. Black and hispanic families are significantly more likely to be
uninsured, a fact which entrenches already existing health disparities. As premiums, co-pays, deductibles and prescription drug prices continue to rise, it is increasingly clear that our healthcare system needs systemic change.
Justin believes in making healthcare a human right for all, so that every Connecticut resident can get the care they need, regardless of their background or wealth.
Justin will: cap the prices of prescription drugs like insulin; protect Medicaid from austerity cuts and expand it as much as possible; ensure that undocumented immigrants can access state healthcare plans; expand funding for reproductive healthcare services and clinics, like Planned Parenthood; expand public transportation so that all residents can access healthcare, especially in rural areas; support laws that make providers accountable for medical racism; and initiate a study into the feasibility of implementing a state-level single-payer health insurance system.
Quality Education for All
Every student needs a high-quality, safe and comprehensive education to succeed. For some students in Connecticut, this is a reality. However, due to Connecticut’s rampant segregation and insistence that local property taxes fund schools, many students are deprived of the education they deserve. For example, during the 2017/18 school year, the Ansonia School District spent
$15,432 per student, while the Canaan School District spent
$30,176 per student. No child’s education should be tied to their parent’s wealth. In addition to school spending, childhood hunger, housing instability, over policing and other markers of childhood poverty are closely tied to educational outcomes.
Justin believes in building a public school system — and a social safety net — that allows all students, no matter their background, to succeed academically and socially.
Justin will: support efforts to regionalize services like education; reevaluate the state’s Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula to ensure that all students are getting their fair share of funding; fight for universal mental health care within schools; support universal free childcare, expansion of the social safety net and a
homes guarantee, all of which would reduce the effects of childhood poverty on educational outcomes; end the school-to-prison pipeline in Connecticut by investing in social workers and restorative justice rather than cops and punishment; and fight housing segregation by building mixed-income social housing and preempting exclusionary zoning laws (read more about Justin’s housing platform
Safely Reopening Connecticut’s Schools
Justin believes firmly that schools should not be reopened until it is safe and practical to do so. At the moment, although Connecticut is doing better than most states at limiting the spread of COVID-19, it is neither safe nor practical to bring students back into large groups at school. To put it bluntly, reopening schools means accepting that some children and their parents will die.
There are many people who make our education system what it is — educators, administrators, custodial staff, paraprofessionals, specialists, tutors, clerks, and more. They are telling us the reopening plans are dangerous, and we must listen. Their voices must be at the forefront of any and all plans for the Fall.
It will be a challenge to move classes to remote learning, but it is achievable if the state sets aside additional funds and resources to make the transition as smooth as possible. The state must also ensure that working class families have the childcare and healthcare necessary to let them get back to work without relying on the school to act as a babysitter. As your state senator, Justin will prioritize the health and safety of our students and teachers while ensuring they have the resources they need to continue their education as smoothly as possible.
Valley Fire School
For 20 years now the Valley Fire School has been without a permanent home. The Valley Fire School is critical in training our up and coming firefighters so they can get the certifications they need in order to effectively fight fires in the Valley and save lives. As other parts of the state see bonding for their fire schools approved, the Valley is once again left behind. As your State Senator, Justin will look to do what he’s done his entire career: bring home the goods for his district. Justin will ensure that the $14 million in bonding needed to build the Valley Fire School finally gets placed on the State Bond Commision’s agenda, and is passed once and for all.
Labor and Workers’ Rights
As the son of an immigrant and a CNA nurse that helped unionize her workplace, Justin is fervently committed to the labor movement. Justin’s own activism and organizing at the local-level has been enhanced and informed by working with UNITE-HERE and New Haven Rising. At the state-level Justin has worked alongside SEIU 1199NE, coming to understand how we can and must build labor-community coalitions. As elsewhere in the U.S., unionization in Connecticut has plateaued in the public sector, while rapidly declining in the private sector over the last fifty years. Connecticut has the third highest state-level income inequality in the country. Worse, the average income of the Connecticut top 0.01% of income earners is $70,196,008 — over forty million dollars higher than the second highest state-level average income in the United States. Justin knows we need a strengthened labor movement.
Justin will advance fair and strong labor policies such as: sectoral bargaining; ending captive audience meetings; ensuring nonunion workers can access unemployment insurance by enabling labor unions to administer features of such programs; creating inclusive and safe workplaces through project labor agreements & community workforce agreements; establishing workers’ standards boards; enacting a just cause law for termination of employment to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory dismissals of employees; starting a statewide solidarity fund; creating a state-level employee ownership center with an office devoted to unionized employee-owned firms; providing K-12 & post-secondary labor education to create a climate corps for a Green New Deal; and implementing workplace safety measures to protect workers from COVID-19.
READ THE FULL PLATFORM HERE
Making the Wealthy Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes
Connecticut, working class residents pay about a quarter of their income towards state and local taxes. In stark contrast, the top 10% income bracket owe just 10% of their income, and the top 1% owe just 7.5%. In addition, residents of wealthier towns deal with far lower property tax mill rates than poor towns. For
example, Hartford has a mill rate of around 75, while Greenwhich’s mill rate is about 12. This means that houses, cars and other property is significantly more expensive to own in Hartford than Greenwich. Despite this unequal burden, legislators in Hartford continue to lower the tax burden on top earners. The estate tax is set to shrink in coming years, while Governor Lamont has refused to even consider a tax on passive investment earnings for households making over $250,000 a year. All of this comes at a time when Connecticut is plagued by extraordinarily high income inequality. According to recent
data, the top 1% in Connecticut take home 27% of the state’s income.
Justin knows that we can’t continue to rely on our low-income and middle class families to provide the state’s revenue while millionaires are not required to pay their fair share. As your State Senator, Justin will pursue equitable taxation reform. He will fight to create taxes on passive investment earnings in wealthy households, raise the top-earner tax rate, introduce a CEO pay ratio tax, end the unequal taxation of cars and stop the rollbacks of wealth taxes like the estate tax. As your state senator, Justin will always fight to relieve the tax burden of working class families and make sure that the wealthy are paying their fair share.
Making CT Energy Resilient, Democratic, and Renewable
This summer has exposed Connecticut’s current energy system for what it is: polluting, inefficient, too expensive and unresponsive to residents. First, as a heat wave struck Connecticut in July and a historic economic downturn left many families with little room in their budget, Eversource jacked up rates. Their greed was only stopped when PURA enacted a
temporary freeze on their rate increases. It’s clear that necessities — like energy — shouldn’t be provided by a profit-driven private actor. Second, Tropical Storm Isaias left hundreds of thousands of residents without power. In response, Eversource has been
remarkably inefficient and unresponsive to the desperate needs of residents. This is just the latest example of how climate change
cripples the viability of much of our existing infrastructure.
Even outside of these events, Connecticut’s energy system is deeply flawed. The energy that powers our electric grid, heats our homes, and fuels our cars and buses remains
overwhelmingly dominated by fossil fuel. While the state has done a lot to clean its
electricity grid and improve air quality, this dependence keeps the state stuck in an unsustainable cycle of greenhouse gas emissions and high costs based on
out of state natural gas and petroleum.
Electricity prices in Connecticut are among the top five highest in the United States, causing undue burden on low income residents. And low income communities and communities of color face unequal distribution of both energy burdens in siting
polluting energy facilities and energy opportunities in solar financing.
Justin believes in taking a different tack. He knows Connecticut can leverage its off-shore wind capacity, robust solar market, and leadership in fuel cell manufacturing along with clean fuel and fertilizer from anaerobic digestion to reach the Governor’s goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2040. Coupled with grid modernization and community ownership, Connecticut’s energy system has the potential to be democratically controlled, cheaper, cleaner, generate thousands of good-paying jobs, and be more resilient to storms.
READ THE FULL PLATFORM HERE