SOUTHINGTON — Candidates for state office shared their views and plans on economic recovery, policing, taxes, energy costs and pandemic restrictions during a virtual forum this week.
The video conference with eight General Assembly members and hopefuls took the place of the annual event hosted by the Southington Public Library and the Southington Chamber of Commerce.
Republican and Democratic candidates in the 80th (Wolcott-Southington), 81st (Southington) and 103rd (Cheshire-Southington-Wallingford) state House districts participated Tuesday as well as candidates for the 16th state Senate district (Southington-Wolcott-Cheshire-Waterbury).
In the 103rd district, Democratic incumbent Liz Linehan faces Republican challenger Pam Salamone.
They had different approaches for economic recovery and preventing heavy tax increases.
Linehan said she’s fought against cuts to state aid to towns and will continue to do so.
“The more municipal aid that (towns) bring in, the less we would have to raise property taxes,” she said.
Linehan said she’s also worked to help businesses get through the pandemic and supports loans and unemployment services.
Salamone said government spending wasn’t the answer to economic challenges.
“It seems like the more programs the government offers, the worse our taxes get,” she said. “To support the programs, they have to increase taxes somewhere.”
Salamone said businesses could have opened up sooner than allowed by Gov. Ned Lamont, which would have kept the economy moving forward.
Rob Sampson, Republican state senator for the 16th district, and his Democratic opponent Jack Perry gave different reasons and solutions to the state’s high electricity costs.
Sampson said state requirements that utilities purchase an increasing amount of more expensive renewable energy has caused a spike in electricity costs. He said Connecticut was moving too fast toward alternative energy sources and taking California as a model.
“We can’t simply follow California,” Sampson said.
Perry focused blame for rising electricity rates on Eversource executives.
“I blame this all on greed, corporate greed,” he said. “I’m fine with people making money but when people are making all this money and they’re cutting linemen and supplies to restore electricity, that’s a problem.”
Perry said Eversource wasn’t sustainable and that changes needed to take place.
In the 80th house district, Republican state Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco and her Democratic challenger John “Corky” Mazurek had different approaches for stemming the outbound migration of residents and businesses for other states.
Mazurek said Connecticut could draw manufacturers from surrounding states.
“The way we entice business to come to Connecticut is to offer incentives in the way of tax rebates and low cost loans to move from another state to Connecticut,” he said.
He said lowering energy costs was part of making Connecticut attractive and said state leaders should use Wallingford, with it’s own utility company, as a model.
Mastrofrancesco said the 2019 state budget was an “assault on businesses” and imposed more costly regulations. She said the state needs to change its ways and present Connecticut as open for business.
“We need to shrink the size and scope of government and pull back those regulations,” Mastrofrancesco said.
Asked about the state’s role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Democratic challenger for the 81st house district Dagmara Scalise said Connecticut has been plagued with “short-term thinking.”
She compared global warming to the state’s pension crisis, saying it became a crisis because no one took action when it was possible to avert major problems.
“We now have the ability to address things for the long term,” Scalise said. “I absolutely support the move to clean energy.”
John Fusco, Republican state representative for the 81st district, said the technology hadn’t yet made such a shift affordable and questioned the need for it.
“I’m not sure I’m on board with the climate change science we have in front of us right now. The jury’s still out on that,” he said.
“The cost that could potentially be associated with that would have disastrous economic effects, more than the problem they’re trying to alleviate.”