The Observer asked the candidates three questions. They were given the option of answering one to three of them as long as their total word count did not exceed a number assigned by paper.
The questions were:
A: What should the General Assembly do over the next two years to help the state economy?
B: There has been a lot of finger-pointing this election at the president and our departing governor. Why are either figure relevant to the problems of Connecticut?
C: Other than the economy what are the top issues the General Assembly must address in the next two years. Why?
Senate 31st District
1: There are a number of actions that the legislature should take to improve Connecticut’s economy. One is to provide the state with a balanced budget and stable tax rates. We cannot think that we can go through another round of large tax increases and still have businesses locate here. As a state representative, I was the leader of the Moderate Democratic Caucus and was a strong voice for fiscal restraint, voting against two of the three two-year budgets proposed while I was in office. Likewise, we cannot think that we can solve our problems through spending cuts alone, as the cuts to aid to cities and towns, our education system, both primary and university, infrastructure repair, law enforcement and other institution would also serve to make Connecticut an undesirable place to locate.
Having the community colleges move to a technical, vocational curriculum was a good start. Manufacturers are begging for trained, qualified candidates, and this program can move high school graduates into well-paying jobs within two years. And with over 6,200 people in Bristol making their living in manufacturing, the importance of this program to our area, not just the state, cannot be overstated.
The legislature also needs to work to preserve and grow the financial services sector of our economy. From the insurance companies in the Hartford area to the banking and hedge fund headquarters in Fairfield County, these companies employ tens of thousands of Connecticut residents, including thousands in the 31st district, and bring in billions of dollars in tax revenue to the state. This is why I don’t support raising our income rates. We simply cannot risk losing these jobs to other states.
2: When it comes to the legacy of the president and the governor, I believe that the president will have a much more serious and long-lasting effect on our state for two reasons. Since the tax cuts that Congress passed and he signed went into effect earlier this year, we have seen the federal deficit explode and federal borrowing grow at the fastest pace in our nation’s history. All while the economy is growing. But the effects of these “cuts” will not be fully felt by Connecticut residents until next year when they file their federal tax returns and it hits home that the deductions they have come to rely on such as for their property taxes have been limited. For many, this will actually lead to an increase in their federal taxes, not a reduction. In addition, the borrow and spend policies of this president and Republican controlled Congress will be borne by us and our children for years to come.
On a social level, the hatred and intolerance being unleased by Donald Trump is unnerving. Just last month, I had two people in one day tell me that they were tired of housing people from Puerto Rico whose homes were destroyed in Hurricane Maria and that they needed to go back to their own country. While this type of racism is certainly nothing new, President Trump has served to embolden those who harbor these feelings. America has always been a place where people from all parts of the world could come to, work hard and make a better life for themselves and their families. The fact that we now have a president who calls neo-Nazis who march through the street chanting “Jews will not replace us” very fine people makes me fear for the soul of my country
3: Other than the economy, perhaps the greatest issue facing the legislature will be health care. Over the last several years, our country and our state have made great progress in ensuring that all Americans have access to health insurance. I myself have seen a noticeable drop in the number of patients who come into the ER where I work who lack coverage. Those gains, however, are being threatened on the national level and it will probably be up to the legislature to make sure that they are not lost here in Connecticut. With fewer and fewer employers offering health insurance to their employees, we must do what we can to make sure that people have access to health care beyond the ER. Another issue is the environment. With all of the wildlife sighting today, we must ask ourselves if we should be developing the last remaining remnants of open space that we have. I believe that we should be concentrating instead on cleaning up old contaminated properties and reusing them.