Republican American: Economy at the fore of debate between candidates for 30th Senate, 64th House seats
BY RUTH EPSTEIN Republican-American
FALLS VILLAGE – Friday night’s debate between the candidates for the 30th Senate and 64th House seats was mostly congenial, with a few jabs thrown in the mix.
State Sen. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, and Democratic challenger David Lawson of New Milford, and Rep. Brian M. Ohler, R-Canaan, and Democratic challenger Maria Horn of Salisbury answered questions during the session put on by the League of Women Voters and the Lakeville Journal. A crowd of about 450 watched the debate in the Housatonic Valley Regional High School auditorium.
The economy was a topic that received a lot of attention during the evening, with all candidates agreeing it has to be addressed if people are going to remain in Connecticut. Lawson, a retired teacher, said small businesses have a difficult time and he’d favor reducing some of their taxes. He also expressed his strong belief in education and readying students because they are the future.
Horn, a former prosecutor now living in Salisbury, said digital infrastructure is critical to attract people who work electronically from their homes.
“It is the road to our future,” she said.
Ohler said many of his generation are leaving the state because of the lack of jobs. Local businesses also are finding a dearth of skilled workers, he noted. He also said the stigma of not attending a four-year college must be removed and those interested in entering a trade should be encouraged.
Miner cited the lack of mass transportation in the Northwest Corner as one roadblock. Developing a system would go a long way toward getting people to their jobs, he said.
Responding to the question of whether Connecticut is facing a spending or revenue problem, most agreed on the former.
“We clearly have a spending problem,” Ohler said.
He spoke of the lack of funding to pensions and teacher retirement, and said tax cuts didn’t go to pay down debts, only increased spending.
Miner agreed spending is the problem, and taxing the wealthy and large corporations is not going to work.
HORN WAS ADAMANT that the financial woes won’t be fixed by eliminating the income tax. The problems are a result of decades of not taking care of obligations. She said 80 percent of the debt is contractual and collaboration is needed to produce a remedy, as is questioning every expenditure. Lawson, too, said the problem arises out of not paying the bills, and “we certainly can’t tax our way out of it.”
Turning to health care, Miner said he would like to offer incentives to business to provide benefits, noting it is unfair for many in the public sector who are making large salaries to be the beneficiaries of good plans. Horn favors the option of allowing people to buy back features of the Affordable Care Act, which she noted Ohler voted against.
“I would like to focus on working with insurance companies and telling them of the chaos and hurt they are creating,” Ohler said. “You can’t put it on a mandate to businesses.”
He also spoke strongly on the need for preventive measures.
Lawson called for the importance of getting patients to needed health care.
“We can bring down costs by economies of scale,” he said.
ASKED THEIR VIEWS on permitting 3-D ghost guns, Horn said she favors a ban on them, as well as bump stocks. She noted she is proud to have a score of F from the National Rifle Association, while Ohler has a B+. She said she is not against NRA members individually because most are responsible and want to be safe. She is proud of Connecticut’s strong regulations, resulting in one of the lowest rates of gun crimes.
Ohler said he’s been vilified for his association with the NRA, but since 2013, he’s worked in many area schools to calm their concerns about guns in schools. He’s also worked on many safety committees and not one person has said guns are a top priority.
Horn challenged him.
“You can’t have a school safety committee and not talk about guns,” she said, noting she stands firmly against guns in schools and added that it’s not a gun safety issue or a mental health issue, but both.
Miner said no one has been killed with 3-D guns.
“The focus should be on prosecution,” he said.
Lawson said, “We need to be proactive, not reactive.”
He added the question is who has access to these 3-D guns.
Lawson took Miner to task for his record on the environment, which he said must have measures of preservation.
Asked about the growing bear population, Lawson said humans and bears can cohabitate, Horn said better waste management is needed, and Ohler and Miner favor limited hunting seasons.