By LISA CAPOBIANCO
From job growth and spending to taxes and regulations to workforce needs, Bristol candidates for the state senate and state representative seats addressed a variety of issues during a debate last week.
Hosted by the Bristol Chamber of Commerce last Monday, the debate took place at St. Paul Catholic High School where state senate candidates for the 31st District Mike Nicastro (D) and Henri Martin (R-Incumbent) faced off. The 31st District includes Bristol, Plainville, Thomaston, Harwinton and Plymouth.
Moderated by veteran political reporter Tom Monahan, the debate also included all of the candidates running for the State Representative seats, including 77th District candidates Cara Pavalock (R-Incumbent) and Laura Bartok (D); 78th District candidates Krystal Myers (D) and Whit Betts (R-Incumbent); and 79th District candidates Peter Del Mastro (R) and Christopher Ziogas (D).
talk business climate, budget deficit
When asked about their thoughts on the proposed legislation for a state-run retirement plan and a $15 an hour minimum wage, both Martin and Nicastro agreed on part of the question.
Nicastro said he did not support the state-run retirement plan. “The concept is a great idea. The execution was not,” said Nicastro, a former president of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce. “We have 40 community banks in this state… [that] have great individual retirement account programs. We could have partnered with all 40 of them… creating a depository flow to them, which they then reinvest in the community.”
A former two-term Bristol City Councilor, Martin said the retirement plan was discussed at length, and he voted no. “I was called personally from those that handle retirement programs. They felt that here’s another layer of bureaucracy,” said Martin, owner/broker of Henri Martin Real Estate. “Those who choose [a retirement plan]…can do it with a private sector, and not necessarily be forced to do it through the government.”
But the candidates disagreed on the minimum wage.
Although he did not support a $15 minimum wage for small businesses right now, Nicastro said he would think about that number for larger businesses.
“We are seeing a slow increase in the process. That’s going to continue for a little while because…if you talk to people who make $25 an hour, they’re barely making a living,” said Nicastro, who has a 40-year experience in the banking and financial technology industries.
Martin said raising the minimum wage comes down to a moral issue.
“When you raise the minimum wage, people do lose their jobs. Some do get higher wages, but at the expense of other people,” said Martin.
On the budget side, Nicastro said reinstating tolls could be an option to generate revenue, as the Office of Fiscal Analysis has projected that the state will have a $1 billion (or more) shortfall a year in each of the next two years.
“There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t,” said Nicastro, adding that he would not “cry crocodile tears” for closing the loop holes for billionaires.
Noting that Connecticut’s spending is “out of control,” Martin said bringing bargaining units to the table should happen in an effort to address the budget issue.
“We’re shackled because of some of the agreements that have been placed,” said Martin. “People are afraid to talk about it.”
77th District: Pavalock and Bartok talk
Addressing the state’s 900-plus day foreclosure process, Pavalock said this is an issue she has dealt with as a foreclosure attorney for the last 10 years in various states.
“Unfortunately, the banks aren’t willing to modify,” said Pavalock. “We need to come up with another process—some type of financial incentive for banks to help homeowners out more.”
“We need to create more transparency,” said Bartok. “There needs to be more discussion to…try to mediate the process….and find out some of the needs of the families that are going through this, maybe see where we could have helped them along the way.”
In response to the first year of the CTFastrak, which Governor Dannel Malloy declared to be a success, Bartok said the busway has been successful in some areas more than others, including New Britain.
“What we need to focus on is making something like that work for Bristol,” said Bartok, adding that downtown redevelopment will give people a reason to take the busway to Bristol.
“I wouldn’t put any more money into that bus system—we need to cut back some of the buses that have nobody on them,” said Pavalock, who later expressed her support for a constitutional spending cap. “The money should be put towards intracity transportation, so our local seniors can get from point A to point B right in Bristol.”
78th District: Myers and Betts talk retirees and graduates, regulations
When asked how to keep residents from leaving the state while attracting new workers, Betts said the first focus should be on those who are approaching retirement age.
“I feel really strongly that…their social security should be exempt from the state income tax just as a matter of principle and fairness,” said Betts, adding how the state’s regulations should not make it difficult for businesses to hire folks. “They’ve already been taxed on that.”
Although Myers said she would love to exempt retirees from the Social Security tax, it is unrealistic, given the current state budget situation. She said the focus should be on college graduates who stay in Connecticut while creating economic development grants for businesses.
“We have graduates…are moving out, but we have graduates here, so we need to invest in economic development grants for these businesses,” said Myers. “These economic development grants would keep them here, and keep our students here.”
On the state’s regulatory business climate, Myers said she would listen to businesses and create regulations that help them, not burden them.
“Our regulations compared to other states are pretty strict. A lot of that has to come from consumer protection,” said Myers.
Betts said regulations are needed, but not those that are too expensive or outdated, such as cities being required to put legal notices into newspapers.
“That’s very expensive. We’re in the 21st century, and we can put that online,” said Betts.
79th District: Del Mastro and Ziogas talk business climate, environment
When addressing the current condition of Connecticut’s environment, both Del Mastro and Ziogas agreed that brownfield properties should be a priority. A brownfield site is defined as real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“We have a number of sites where pollution is embedded in the soil. In order to make those sites buildable, they’ve got to be cleaned,” said Del Mastro. “While it’s expensive to do, we need to find a way to use these sites over again. We can’t just abandon them.”
The city pursues funding opportunities for environmental site assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment of brownfield properties.
“We need to take some of that money or hopefully have access to some of that money, so we can do some work here locally,” said Ziogas.
Del Mastro and Ziogas also addressed the proposed legislation for a state-run retirement plan and a $15 an hour minimum wage.
“We have got to give our small businesses a break,” said Del Mastro, adding that regulations that should be reduced. “They have been struggling under high taxes and with regulations that have been causing them to operate at just minimal activity.”
Ziogas said a state-run retirement plan is “misguided,” and supported a $15 minimum wage over time.”
“People aren’t earning enough money oftentimes to want to contribute on a voluntary basis to these plans,” said Ziogas. “They are not thinking in the shoes of the people who are having a hard time making ends meet.”
To watch the entire debate, visit nutmegtv.org/video-on-demand/single/?id=33856.