Prior to introducing the candidates, ECAR President Debra Chamberlain referred to the FIVE BUDGET PRINCPLES FOR ELIMINATING DEFICITS that were on the screen behind the podium and in the meeting packet provided to all who attended. Since the candidates referred to these principles during their two and one half minute presentations I will repeat them below
1. Reduce Spending first.
2. In making cuts, all stakeholders must share the pain to the extent that it is economically and socially responsible.
3. Restrain bonding, recognizing per capita debt is extremely hight and interest payments consume a large share of State spending.
4. Use a broad-based approach in selecting new or expanded revenue sources, but only after reducing spending to the level for most efficient performance of core government functions. REALTORS accepted a temporary increase in out license fees as part of an overall adjustment in all occupational fees.
5. There should be no added taxation on the real estate transaction,k particularly when the Federal government is relying on the housing sector to lead an economic recovery with measures like the first-time buyer's tax credit.
18th District - Stuart Norman (R) - Agree with the five principles.
Senator Andrew Maynard (D) - Opposed the conveyance tax. This is the worst budget crisis ever and there will be pressure to look for other revenue sources. Did not vote for last year's budget. This year will see a 20% revenue reduction. There will be some cuts, some new revenue, and some borrowing to balance the budget.
19th District - Sean Sullivan (R) - Agree with the five principles. Need to focus on who can "right the ship". People currently in office did not take appropriate actions to change course. In the Navy, if you run aground, you are fired (Sullivan is a retired Navy Captain, currently a practicing lawyer in Norwich). The current incumbents are nice people, but they have not done the job and should be fired.
Senaor Edith Prague (D) - We are in a crisis. We need to make changes without hurting other human beings. We cannot keep doing it the same way. Departments like the Department of Corrections and the Department of Environmental Protection must operate more efficiently. There will be savings in the large departments and a number of deputy commissioners that could be eliminated. It is not business as usual. However need to keep services for the elderly, children, and other disadvantaged citizens.
20th District - Senator Andrea Stillman (D) - The five principles make sense. Weneed to reduce spendng but the real question is where and how to do it responsibly and keep in mind the people that cannot help themselves..Hopes that everyone understands that most state bonding is for school construction where the state pays eighty percent and the municipality pays twenty percent. The state will also have to look for new revenue sources. The greatest task is creating jobs in a green economy.
35th District- Senator Tony Guglielmo(R) - He quoted the prime minister of Belgium who stated "We know what to do, we just don't know how to get reelected after we do it." In the past we used surpluses to start new programs rather than pay down debt. The State cannot afford all the programs currently in place. It is time to pay the piper.
37th District (East Lyme/Salem) - Holly Cheeseman (R) - We have a legislature that looks at the golden eggs and has forgotten about tending to the goose. We need lower spending and more accountability. We must use best practices and results based accountability.
-Rep Ed Jutila (D) - Priorities are jobs, the economy, and getting the fiscal house in order. Will use results based accountability to determ stat of programs. However, in the past, did not get the cooperation from the Executive Branch. It is not possible without reliable data. State bonding should focus on creating jobs, improving infrastructure, and schools.
38th District (Waterford/Montville) - Tony Siragusa (R) - Cut spending as first priority. No tax increases. Democrats have accomplished very litte. They could cut spending if they really wanted to do so.
- Rep. Eizabeth (Betsy) Ritter (D) - (Rep Ritter arrived late due to a prior dental appointment and was the last candidate to speak but I have included her with her district ) - Worked on state Health Insurance but the task is not complete and am looking forward to finishing the job. Busines in the state, town and region need economic vitality and security to compete in the global markets.
39th District (New London) - Andrew Lockwood (R) - Hartford is out of control. Legislature is not listening to the people. No more spending and no tax increases. Most state jobs could be given to the private sector.
41st District - Elissa Wright (D) (Groton) - She is fully aware of role of housing in the economic recovery. Serves on the Banking Committee. The State needs jobs to grow to support the housing market. Believes that the legislature has been following the five principles. 22% of authorized bonding was cancelled in the last session.
42nd District (Preston, Ledyard, Montville)- John Rodolico (R) If next year's legislature looks like the current legislature, don't be surprised if nothing gets done. State needs to reorganized, privatize, and have fiscal discipline.
Rep Tom Reynolds (D) - Five principles good for the short term but not for the long term. Both branches of government share reponsibility for problems. New administration needs to perform some long range planning, plan for pension and debt, provide a comprehensive tax strategy.
44th District (Killingly/Plainfield/Sterling) - Michael Struzik (R) - Solving problems with the budget does not seem to be a priority with current majority.
Rep. Mae Flexer (D) - Legislature needs appropriate suggestions of specific progrms to cut.
45th District (Griswold, Lisbon, Plainfield, Voluntown) - Michale Zelasky (R) - thenumber one issue is jobs. The best tool to create jobs is a tax cut. Need to elect people who will do the job. Need tax cuts - not new revenue streams, not borrowing, just cuts and it will be painful.
Rep. Steve Mikutel (D) - Don't paint all of the legislature with the same broad brush. Voted against the budget because it was not honest. State needs to put its fiscal house in order. Will continue to make the tough choices.
46th District (Norwich) Rep Melissa Olson (D) - Appreciate the five principles but need to have input on what should be cut. What are citizens willing to give up? CONNPACE, ECS Funding, Closing more DMV offices? Legislature needs to know what we are willing to give up?
47th District (Canterbury, NOrwich, Scotland, and Sprague)-Rep Chris Coutu (R) - Proud of the no vote on the conveyance tax. There is a $5 billion deficit ($3.4 billion in general fund budget and over $1 billion in unfunded retirement benefits) Connecticut is bankrupt. The choice is decrease spending or increase taxes.
Catherine Osten (D) - Know how to lower taxes and balance a budget. Even took a pay cut as First Selectman of Sprague to help balance that budget. From record will see that knows how to make the tough decisions.
51st District (Killingly, Putnam, and Thompson) - Daniel Rovero (D) - Look at record as Mayor for 14 years. Town has lowest tax rate and no bonding. Will not mortgage future. Need to make tough decisions in Hartford.
Generally the incumbent points with pride and the challenger views with alarm during an election cycle. This year both are "viewing with alarm". The incumbents are saying that it will be different next year and they will tackle the problems. The challengers are saying that the incumbents had their chance and it is time for new persons with different agenda to solve the problems. Unfortunately, there was no time for questions during this meeting. The voters will make their choice on a district by district basis on November 2.