Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-5th) paid a visit May 5 to New Milford.

The second-term legislator fielded questions and provided information to members of the New Milford Rotary Club and their guests over lunch at the Holiday Restaurant.

"My job is to be a problem solver," Esty told the Rotary members, encouraging them to ask tough questions. "It is to make sure government works for the people."

During her tenure in Washington D.C., Esty serves on the House of Representatives' Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Space, Science and Technology.

She also offered assistance to anyone in her district who needs to make their way through other government channels.

The congresswoman fielded questions ranging from immigration reform to corporate bailouts, to how to keep businesses from leaving the state.

"I was a co-sponsor of comprehensive immigration reform," Esty said. "When I was elected to Congress this was the No. 1 issue businesses brought up. They said if we want this country to succeed, we need immigration reform."

Esty notes there are dairy farmers in the 5th District who can't get their cows milked three times a day without immigrant labor.

And without immigration reform, she remarked, they have to consider breaking the law to hire the laborers they need.

"They shouldn't be put in that position," Esty said.

Rotary member Arthur Klein asked why, when big corporations "squander their resources," government bails them out, while, at the same time, government straps college graduates with exorbitant student loan debt.

Why not stop charging interest on student loans? he asked.

Esty agreed that currently the federal government "makes a lot of money from student loan debt."

However, it would be difficult to find bi-partisan support for charging no interest on those loans, Esty said.

"This will have a ripple effect in the economy," Esty said, in agreement with Klein's point. "People carrying heavy student loan debt won't buy houses, start families or start businesses. This will hurt the future economy."

Ralph Williams, an accountant, said in the last four or five years, 50 percent of his customers left the state with their businesses.

He asked Esty how she suggests slowing this loss of skilled employees, given the cost of living in New England.

She responded she is increasingly convinced technical training of the district's own workforce would be the key to keeping big business in Connecticut.

People who have grown up in Connecticut value the lifestyle offered and will stay here if there are good paying jobs, she said.

"I hear from businesses that want to stay in Connecticut despite the costs, but worry about having trained workers," Esty said.

"That is of more concern for many of them than the cost of doing business in the state."

stuz@newstimes.com;

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