SOUTHINGTON — Two legislators and six General Assembly hopefuls discussed their views on business and the state at a Greater Southington Chamber of Commerce forum Thursday morning.
Candidates touted their support for improving the state’s economy and had different ways of reaching that goal.
Rob Sampson, a Republican state representative for the 80th district running for the 16th senate seat, said business owners are concerned not only about the current level of taxes and regulation but what might pass in future legislative sessions.
“They’re concerned about what’s coming. It seems like every year there’s another thing weighing on business. Is this the year that the minimum wage is going to be increased to $15?” Sampson said.
The election would determine whether the state would “get back to our roots as Americans and rely on core principles of freedom and opportunity,” and allow owners to “grow your business and make your own choices.”
Vicki Nardello, a Democrat and former state representative, is also running for the 16th senate seat vacated by Republican Joe Markley.
Nardello said business owners were concerned about large companies offering to move into Connecticut or threatening to leave and getting special benefits.
“Connecticut needs to stop picking winners and losers,” she said. “We need to get a hold of energy costs and health care costs and bring them down.”
Bringing young people to the state would mean investing in cities, advanced manufacturing and bioscience jobs and transit-oriented development.
Joe Aresimowicz, Democratic house speaker and a state representative for the 30th district, said he’s supported and led efforts to increase technical education and make the trades more accessible for young people. Technical schools were moved out from under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Education, allowing them to partner better with businesses. He was hopeful about efforts made by the General Assembly to improve job prospects and partnerships between educators and employers.
“We’re going to come out of this and we’re going to come out better,” Aresimowicz said.
Michael Gagliardi, a Republican opposing Aresimowicz, jumped into the race last week after the departure of the party’s previous candidate.
The state needed solutions from “people who have spent years in business rather than years at the capitol,” Gagliardi said. Connecticut government needed to find ways to control “unsustainable” budget deficits.
“The best way to get younger people here is to create a fairer tax base,” he said.
Democrat David Borzellino is running against Republican Gale Mastrofrancesco for Sampson’s open 80th House district seat. Both are from Wolcott.
Borzellino, executive director of the non-profit Farrell Treatment Center in Cheshire, said he’s a solution-maker and will surround himself with good people who can help provide answers.
“The way I run my business is I look for solutions. I don’t have time for blame,” he said.
Mastrofrancesco, a Wolcott Town Councilor, said the state isn’t going to see major new business growth until the state reconsiders its rules and taxes.
“Cutting regulations on small business is extremely important,” she said. “They are overtaxed, there are too many regulations, there is too much involved in starting a business.”
Diane Pagano, a Republican running for the 103rd House district, was present at Thursday’s forum. Her Democratic opponent and incumbent Liz Linehan was not present due to illness.
Democrat Ryan Rogers, running for the 81st House district, was also at Thursday’s forum. His Republican opponent and incumbent John Fusco was not present due to a scheduling conflict.