The Mansfield League of Women Voters hosted its annual Candidates Night Wednesday evening at E.O. Smith Regional High School.
Candidates received questions from both the LWV and the audience in a cumulative time format, whereby each candidate's cumulative response time was limited to 10 minutes.
Below, you'll find a few of the important questions posed last night accompanied by the candidate's full responses.
Sally White (R, I) is running against incumbent Don Williams (D, WF) in the 29th State Senate District.
Question: In this time of high unemployment, what would be your priority to improve our state’s economy?
White: My sense of the role of the state and the economy is that first of all we shouldn’t hinder free enterprise. The Hippocratic Oath is ‘first do no harm’ and I think if we practiced that in the state and allow the businesses and market place to make more decisions and to have more money in their pockets in order to innovate and expand and so forth, that that would enliven our economy. We also don’t want to hinder consumers. When we have high taxes, we hinder their ability to participate in the market place. Government should facilitate with reason and when I mean facilitate a good economy and free enterprises, is by sticking to their core roles of ensuring we have good infrastructure, that it’s a well-maintained infrastructure so that we have those structures that we need for business in order to transport utilities and so forth. My concern is that government shouldn’t try to directly alter employment opportunities in terms of when government becomes involved in manipulating employment, then it becomes fraught with problems in terms of the wages actually are eaten up by the taxes that are used to provide jobs and then the taxes have to rise in order to pay the taxes, so it’s a vicious circle that keeps going around that ultimately is essentially the same as eating your young. We need to let the market place work and not hinder them in their opportunities to prosper.
Williams: I believe that it’s our obligation to be an active partner and catalyst for economic development; a partner with business. Every state and every country in the world that’s serious about economic development takes that approach. Connecticut takes that approach as well. As I’ve mentioned before, we passed bi-partisan legislation and within that something called the Business Express Program that helped with financing with small business, the Step Up Program that helped companies and small businesses to employ folks. I took the lead in helping to create a research and development technology park here at the University of Connecticut. I also helped bring one of only three manufacturing training centers to northeastern Connecticut at Quinebaug Valley Community College. That is critical not only to the employees of the future, but to our businesses that are here now and the ones that are coming, because we know that manufacturing, particularly precision manufacturing, is critical to Connecticut’s economy today, but also in the future. A report just came out looking at New England - the Deloitte report commissioned by the New England Council, and it says we have the opportunity in New England to lead in precision manufacturing that even compared to the southern states that supposedly have certain advantages over New England states, we actually trump them when it comes to infrastructure, when it comes to productivity, when it comes to supply chain, when it comes to education. We have to maintain those critical leads in order to grow the sectors of the economy where we are going to be employed, where our children are going to be employed in the future, and that’s why I am so committed to not standing on the sidelines and watching the opportunities pass us by, but to be a catalyst and an active partner to make sure we in New England and we in northeastern Connecticut are in the game.
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Question: What is your specific plan to reduce the tax burden on residents of Connecticut?
White: My approach to the high cost of living in Connecticut which impact families, seniors and business alike, is to identify those taxes that in the past actually brought in revenue and that we have raised in the past few years. I think that we should eliminate taxes and modify taxes that are inhibiting businesses from being able to expand and hire. Right now, businesses are in what I call a ‘protective crouch.’ They’re afraid to hire. They’re afraid when the next tax is going to hit, or the next regulation. Other states have lower taxes. Connecticut used to have lower taxes. Twenty-one years ago we didn’t have an income tax and we were better off then. We know of other states in the nation that don’t have an income tax and it may be conceivable that we could begin a well though out, strategic and gradual plan to potentially eliminate the income tax. Last year, we raised and expanded many taxes and those are very much a hardship. I think that obviously lowering the gas tax so that we can be competitive with our neighbors would give great relief to people, and in turn would bring in revenue. But we need to very thoughtfully and strategically identify those taxes that are hampering our economy and at the same time, if we lower them, would actually increase revenue.
Williams: I think my opponent’s ideas there are fascinating. I think that she owes it to the voters to explain how she would pay for the elimination of the income tax or any other tax that she might have in mind, because voters have the right to know exactly what the impact is, how the math works, and what cuts for example to schools, to towns to seniors or whatever, would be necessary. When the income tax came into existence with Gov. Lowell Weicker, we weren’t in a great fiscal situation. We were in a terrible fiscal situation. We were running huge deficits. The state was in a very deep and significant recession, we had a sales tax that was climbing toward 9 percent, and the folks who lead the charge for the income tax was the business community and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.
Question: What would you do to reduce carbon emissions from transportation in Connecticut?
Williams: I think incentives for hybrid cars are very important, as are incentives for mass transit; especially the densely populated areas. …I think we should have expanded service in the areas that are the most congested - that I-95 corridor from New Haven down to New York City absolutely. If we want to continue to grow economically, we have to increase mass transit there, and that I-91 corridor is getting busier and busier from New Haven to Hartford, and certainly it’s great to have the charging stations. I just took a walk through Storrs Center and Gregg [Haddad] joined Congressman [Joe] Courtney and others to see the charging stations in that [Storrs Center] garage. These are all positive signs.
White: In terms of decreasing the carbon emissions, I would say that one of the areas that could be looked at is actually engine innovation. Our engines operate at about a 30 percent efficiency rate. My sense is that there are innovators out there right now that would like to bring new designs to the market place but are hampered by our economy and also by the shall we say the competition from other companies that actually don’t want to see innovation, and sometimes that happens in concert with other government leaders that perhaps favor certain businesses and don’t want other to thrive, and that gets into when government picks winners and losers. There are also obviously the more simple, common things. The state perhaps could consider a four-day work week. An 8-6 p.m. workday - that would save fuel, it would save commuting fuel and that would find savings I believe for the state in a number of ways, but innovation again, I think if businesses had more freedom, we would have more innovation for these types of things.