In the candidate forum sponsored by The New London Day held at Montville High School Wednesday night between the Democratic and Republican candidates for the 42nd and 139th House seats in the Connecticut General Assembly the discussion was at once civil and partisan.
The Republicans addressed their issue with tax and spend approach in state government and the Democrats promoted job creation and prevailing wages.
The panel included 139th district Rep. Kevin Ryan, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger in the 139th House District, Leon Moore and candidates for the 42nd House District, Democrat Timothy Bowles and Republican Mike France.
The towns of Montville, Ledyard, Preston and Bozrah are within the districts. The format included an opening statement, responses to five questions and a closing statement.
The opening statements
Moore admitted he has no political experience.
“I don’t have a whole lot of political experience. I am not a polished candidate but after 20 years of being in the Navy I decided to try something different.”
Ryan, the incumbent , pointed to his record of listening to his constituents as his strong suit.
France said his “leadership and proven record over the past 25 years” should be reason enough to “send a principled leader to Hartford. “
And Bowles thanked France for running. “I respect him for taking on the hard work of public office. “
When asked how would each keep the state budget in balance and fill the gaping fiscal hole the state finds itself in.
Ryan, who said the cuts made the past four years were “very, very difficult.”
“There were lots of concessions. There are always a lot of hard decisions that have to be made,” but added that the state has a responsibility to “the most helpless people (elderly in nursing homes, he said), followed by education and the “15 percent goes to towns.”
Moore said “the tax increase was a tough pill to swallow.”
“What’s been done (has) been done. I can’t fault them, but I don’t agree with it. Going forward, we need to hold the line on spending.”
Bowels: said what was done was akin to “spreading the pain.”
“I think nobody was happy and that was the beauty of what happened,” he said. Bowles said he wants to see two things: greater government efficiency and program accountability.”
France said he didn’t “wholeheartedly agree with what happened..”
“A fairly equitable solution should have held the line on spending with the cuts. (What happened) was increased spending of $1 billion put us deeper than when we started. Creation of 77 taxes, 20 were new. Not an honest way to do with public. When you start creating use taxes. I disagree with that (approach).”
On the question of a prevailing wage, France said “on its face its not fair and equitable.”
But Bowles said he “very strongly supports the notion of a prevailing wage. Working men and women have suffered tremendously. The deepest economic pain is suffered by the middle class, so we must keep a living wage intact. Out of respect and deep compassion for people …its critical to rather than drive down wages we need to do everything we can t support a decent living wage for every person in Connecticut.”
And Moore, who said he was not “completely familiar with the idea” but added he believes in the free market. “
And Ryan said a prevailing wage is “not a union wage” and “ensures that working people aren’t penalized because they are working for a municipality or government.”
As to unemployment, which in Connecticut is at about 9 percent, the question posed was what each candidate’s priority was for creating jobs.
Bowles offers his idea of creating a clean energy center at the site of the former Norwich State Hospital where public and private partnerships create a renewable energy cluster, research and development and light manufacturing, and job training. “I have the experience and connections to try and bring this into fruition. We desperately need an economic jolt to create jobs.”
France said he agreed that “jobs are the key.”
“But I disagree with the approach. Our taxes are unpredictable. Businesses are leaving the state as taxes are being raised. How can a business predict what’s coming?”
Ryan said that following the job creation bill banks failed to “re-distribute the wealth.”
“The banks didn’t do that (re-distribute the wealth),” he said. “And just cutting taxes and slowing the budget isn’t enough.”
Moore said he’d like to “see more accountability in the unemployment services area.” He said people are not “to show they’re looking for a job.” He suggested people “work for and volunteer for non-profit we have a pool of people that are able bodied get them up and out an do something for the community.”
Questions about teacher evaluations and early prisoner release wrapped up the debate.
Bowles said he believes he “brings the kind of experience that can make a difference.”
“And I believe I have an informed knowledge and insight for what can work.”
France said raising taxes and spending has got to stop.
“Enough is enough. I talked to a number of seniors who don’t know how they’re going to make it to the next check. Balancing budgets without raising taxes” is his position.
Ryan said “We all want to work to create a stronger Connecticut” and added that one of his most important roles has been with “constituent services.”
“This role, helping people, has been just as important.”
But it may have been Moore’s comment that wrapped up the discussion in tome for people to get to their TVs for he Presidential debate.
“I don’t have a lot of experience. We all know Connecticut has done the trail of taxing and spending. It’s happened over many, many years. If experience is what got us to this point maybe we need a little less experience in Hartford. “