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WTA president not satisfied with budget

WINSTED — If you drove by Town Hall last Friday and saw a small group of protesters flying the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and espousing anti-tax slogans, you would have been right in assuming that it was Winsted’s own tea party, organized by the Winchester Taxpayers Association (WTA).

While WTA members share many of the beliefs of the national Tea Party movement, the group’s president, David LaPointe, said told The Journal last week that the Winsted tea parties are more concerned with the Winchester town budget and the WTA’s mission to oppose any tax increases.

“This is the second tea party for Winsted,” LaPointe said. “The Winchester Taxpayers Association did a tea party in 2003, before it was vogue, in the tradition of the Boston Tea Party.”

Yes, Winsted residents were bringing tea bags to tax protests long before the current national movement. And their message has remained unchanged.

“We believe that taxes are high enough in the town,” LaPointe said. “The unemployment rate is higher than ever, and there are more foreclosures than ever before. We do not see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Though the Board of Selectmen cut $1.5 million from the proposed school budget last week, members of the WTA have found common ground with local Republicans this year by calling for a zero increase in school funding. Republican Selectmen Kenneth Fracasso and Glenn Albanesius, along with Democrat George Closson, voted against a final proposed school budget of $21.3 million, saying they thought a $300,000 increase still left in the budget was too generous.

LaPointe and the WTA are calling for a zero tax increase this year, which would keep Winsted’s budget flat for a third straight year. Recent years have seen multiple referendums in which residents have rejected budget increases.

LaPointe notes that he is a public employee, working as a corrections officer for the state, and that he does not believe he or any other public employee should be getting a raise this year. But raises are negotiated by unions, and union rules do not allow employees to reject raises.

“Right now I have a job, but the majority of the people are not working,” LaPointe contended. “They’re either on social programs or unemployment. We shouldn’t impose more taxes on people to support people who are already making enough money. Public employees should be thankful. Do we need more raises? No. We need to have our government work more efficiently and effectively.”

While local issues are the main focus of the Winchester Taxpayers Association, the “tea party” title has national connotations, particularly as a recent Harris poll suggested 67 percent of Republicans believe President Barack Obama is a socialist, 45 percent believe he wasn’t born in the United States and 24 percent believe he “may be the Antichrist.”

Asked whether he believes the president is a socialist, LaPointe replied, “Yes.” Asked if he thinks Obama is the Antichrist, he replied, “I should hope not. You’ll have to ask him.”

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