Getting the state’s ailing budget back in the black and unemployed Connecticut residents back to work are top priorities for Richard Smith, who was sworn in Jan. 5 as state representative for the 108th General Assembly District covering New Fairfield, New Milford, Kent and Sherman. Smith was among 17 freshman Republican legislators who vowed to serve their districts over a two-year term. Powered by a “common sense” approach to government, Smith in November defeated Democrat Ken Neal, who also sought to replace longtime Republican lawmaker Mary Ann Carson. “Folks in the four towns I represent placed tremendous faith in me on Election Day, and it’s an honor I take seriously,” Smith said. “Our state faces significant challenges—high unemployment and a poor budget outlook. But where there’s difficulty there’s opportunity, and we can use these challenges as motivation to recast our government in a way that creates lasting financial stability.” Smith was in the House chamber late Wednesday afternoon when Gov. Dan Malloy addressed lawmakers, focusing his remarks on the state’s economic crisis—namely, its estimated $3.5 billion deficit. Over the last two years, House Republicans drove the debate over financial shortfalls, contending that spending reductions rather than tax increases should be the starting point in budget-balancing deliberations. That’s a message Smith trumpeted in the run-up to Election Day, where a strong show of support from voters vaulted him to membership with a House Republican caucus that picked up 14 seats statewide. House Republicans now control 51 seats, eliminating the super majority status enjoyed by Democrats. Smith serves on the legislature’s committees on Judiciary, Finance, and Planning and Development.