The 10 candidates for the various state legislative seats that slice and weave through New Canaan attempted to explain their ideas and outlooks in one-minute-long responses at the League of Women Voters candidates' debate Monday, Oct. 22.
Fiscal conservatism and the benefit of green programs carried the night, more or less across all parties, while tone and job creation led to some disagreements.
The event filled the mint green auditorium of Town Hall, with about 25 additional people standing around the periphery of the room.
Members of the audience wrote general questions for the candidates on cards, which were left on each auditorium seat.
A group of Boy Scouts acted as pages, transporting the handwritten questions to a bipartisan board, which sorted the questions and decided which ones made it to the speaker's podium.
125th General Assembly District
Connecticut's taxation and expenditures were issues of top concern.
Republican New Canaan Town Councilman Tom O'Dea expressed his support for a 10 percent reduction in spending across the board. He also made the point that taxes should be lowered to make Connecticut more competitive for attracting businesses.
"We've never been a more mobile society than we are today," he said, underscoring the danger of businesses fleeing the state i taxes are high as well as the possible influx of business the state could see if taxes are low compared to other states.
"It's not rocket science that if you have more people paying a little less, you have more revenue," he said.
Democratic candidate Mark Robbins attempted to put the spending issue into a better focus by explaining what most expenditures are for, placing himself in contrast to other candidates who point to egregious but relatively miniscule appropriations as anecdotal evidence of the type of waste they would cut.
"Seventy-five percent of the budget is higher education, health care and safety," he said. "I don't think we want to jeopardize them."
Green Party candidate David Bedell offered an innovative idea that perhaps the state should lower taxes on things it supports, like income and business, and raise taxes on things it doesn't like, like carbon emissions. He compared it to the taxes on cigarettes. He did not say who would be responsible for determining that which the state likes and that which it does not.
Robbins, for whom energy has been a concern throughout the campaign, noted that the Yankee Gas Co. line runs through Waveny Park, and that tapping into it with an easement would provide millions of dollars in energy savings to New Canaan.
O'Dea responded that when he joined the Town Council, he contacted Yankee Gas Co. about an easement and was told there were not enough customers and it was too costly a process, adding that to tap into the line would necessitate a structure being built in Waveny, which he felt the town would not like.
147th General Assembly District
House Republican Leader Larry Cafero expressed his fiscal conservatism, saying that reducing the deficit would create a more friendly environment for businesses.
"Businesses and job creators are sick and tired of looking over their shoulders at the deficit and waiting for us to hit them up again," he said.
Cafero also got specific in what he would cut.
"When you hear about Supplemental Security Income payments for people that have been dead for four years. ... And the (New Britain-Hartford) busway boondoggle, that's the stuff we need to cut," he said, later adding that the taxpayers of New Canaan had been saddled by unfunded mandates, and that while he was the Republican leader of the House, "We proposed getting rid of unfunded mandates."
Democratic candidate Kate Tepper defended the tax increases that passed under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, saying that if they are measured as a percentage of gross state product, they are not increases as outrageous as Republicans paint.
"As a percentage of gross state product, (they're) about 10 percent less than (the) tax increase from 1989-92," she said.
She also spoke on the issue of energy, noting that simply being more conscious of conserving is the cheapest and easiest option for energy costs.
"I would push for a program that emphasizes, `Don't use it and we will have it,'" she said.
26th Senate District
Democratic Party candidate Carolanne Curry carried the flag of the 20th century when she spoke warmly of Roosevelt's New Deal as a good example of what to look for in solutions in the midst of Connecticut's economic troubles.
"There's a myth that government doesn't create jobs," she said, before ticking off numerous jobs that government creates, such as police, fire, park rangers, diplomats and first selectmen.
Republican Toni Boucher, who has served as a state legislator for 16 years, expressed her stance as an anti-tax fiscal conservative. She made the point that lowering taxes will allow the private sector, rather than the public sector, to create jobs.
"We have not added one new net job since 1991, when we passed the income tax," she said.
36th Senate District
Republican incumbent Scott Frantz spoke out against the fiscal situation in the strongest of terms.
"Our fiscal system is in code red," he said in his opening remarks, "We're talking about close to $100 billion in unfunded liabilities. Who do you think is going to pick up the tab for all this?"
Frantz, who is the president of the private equity group Haebler Capital and was the president of the Connecticut Development Authority for five years, positioned himself as the candidate of business.
"I know every single problem that nearly every business has faced in the last seven (or) eight years," he said.
It is private industry, he said, that will lead Connecticut out of recession, not the government.
"It's been proven that the jobs the government created in the 1930s prolonged the Depression," he said, the comment drawing buzz and some derisive laughter from the crowd.
A visibly surprised Frantz responded with some bewilderment. "It has. You can look it up," he said, softly.
In his closing remarks, Frantz added an ethical appeal to his call for fiscal conservatism.
"Connecticut faces a truly daunting future. The cruelest thing you can do to people in need is to run the fiscal situation on the rocks."
Democratic candidate Dan Dauplaise attacked Frantz's message repeatedly as being one of "doom and gloom."
Dauplaise, a 2007 graduate of Cornell University, agreed that the state needed to be "smart" with its taxation, but supported improved infrastructure and transportation as another way of bringing employment to the state.
"We need to create a kind of environment where people like my opponent can hire more people for his hedg fund," he said to some laughs.
Dauplaise also cited sports media as an avenue for employment.
"How can you sit on this dais and says we are not growing jobs?" He asked, his voice rising, "The Olympics were broadcast out of Stamford."
Remy Chevalier represented the Green Party. He said he was running not to win, but to raise awareness and support for the party.
"This country needs a third party and a fourth party, and this is why I'm here," adding, "I hope that we can break the logjam in this country on practically every issue."
Chevalier closed by saying that he would like to grow the Green Party by allying it with green business. He ended with what might have been the line of the night for levity.
"I'm pro-business. I'm pro-capitalist. I'm not a socialist," he said, slowing down, then finishing with, "I'm anti-social."
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