The Bethel Community Gazette
The Bethel Community Gazette
Sunday, September 15, 2019 • HomeArts DiningNews AdvertiseSubscribe

Special 2018 Election Section

We asked the eight candidates for State Senate and State Representative who would like represent Bethel to share their views on a number of topics of interest to local voters, including the Economy, Education, Infrastructure, Municipal Efficiency, Public Safety, Seniors and Taxes, as well as additional legislative issues they're concerned about and any additional thoughts they'd like to share with our readers. Six campaigns responded. What follows is each candidate's answers as they provided them to us, organized by question, district and candidate.

How will you improve education?

Toni Boucher (R), Incumbant, State Senate

I am passionate about education. I believe education is what every person needs to be successful in life. A quality education for all children requires high expectations, rigorous standards and accountability. It is a social responsibility we all share. When I moved to Connecticut as an impoverished immigrant from Italy, education was my step toward opportunity and to building a new life. I worked my way through public school, college and later received my MBA from the University of Connecticut. I began my work in public service as Chair of the Wilton Board of Education and later on the State Board of Education where I chaired its important Policy Committee. It's been humbling to take my passion for education to fuel my efforts to advocate for all our children to Hartford and I am very proud that one of my children is a special education teacher in a Connecticut intercity.

I've served as ranking member and now co-chair of the General Assembly's Education Committee, where I've worked hand in hand with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to advocate for strong education throughout our state and to pass legislation to ensure our education system teaches children to accept all people and fight against hate.

As new co-chair of the General Assembly's Education Committee, I am particularly proud this past year to have finally been able to pass, after 10 years of trying, a law mandating that our schools teach children about genocide and the Holocaust. We have unfortunately witnessed examples of hate crimes right here in Ridgefield as well as surrounding towns. I maintain that teaching our children about the horrors of genocides that have occurred in history is one of the best ways to ensure that such history will not repeat.

Furthermore, education is a Connecticut Hallmark and why I first ran for public office. We must make education a top priority again and focus on early literacy. Every child should be afforded a strong start with high quality pre-kindergarten. All children, regardless of their socio-economic circumstances, will have vastly improved prospects if they can read by the end of third grade. This will also significantly improve student learning outcomes in higher grades.

We must also ensure an effective teacher in every classroom and effective leaders in every school, hold students to rigorous academic standards, and fix our broken school funding rules so that every child is funded fairly. I believe in maintaining local control and providing mandate relief. "Hope" merit based scholarships for top students.

People want their preforming schools left alone and to fix those things that are broken. The state should leave high performing schools alone and reward academically advanced students with access to higher level courses, merit based scholarships, emphasis local control, flexibility and creatively and involve parents and teachers in the process.

Education is a core function of government and an area I'll always advocate to protect and enhance. The biggest challenge for our schools is the predictability of state funding, especially special education. This year, I was able to stop Governor Malloy's $400 million pension fund charge against local education budgets and $25 million more cuts to our districts Education School funding. Because of our 18-18 tie in the Senate, we were also successful in restoring Care $ Kids preschool funding. As my father said to us "Education is everything, it is the way out of poverty and the path to freedom". I take this to heart. If returned to the Senate in 2019, I will continue to be the legislature's strongest education advocate and fighter.

Will Haskell (D), State Senate

Connecticut has some of the best teachers, curricula, and after-school programs in the country. But these opportunities are only afforded to some of our state's children. Connecticut ranks highest in the nation in reliance on local funding for education. This results in vastly unequal public schools, where a student's zip code determines the quality of their education. How can we expect our state to grow if the majority of our low-income students are reading 2 years below grade level, and approximately 85% are behind in math.

Every school is negatively impacted by the unpredictable nature of how our state government funds education. The Education Cost Sharing Formula lacks consistency, making it nearly impossible for local school boards to plan annual budgets. Efforts to reform this formula have been short-sighted and influenced by backroom deals in Hartford.

Connecticut must address the actual cost of educating a student. Massachusetts found an answer to this question in 1991, and subsequently launched momentous reforms in public education. As your State Senator I will support a comprehensive education cost study to reform our current formula with up-to-date data and analysis of towns' actual financial resources.

Michael McLachlan (R), Incumbant, State Senate

Senator McLachlan's campaign didn't provide responses. Please see their website for their positions on local issues.

Julie Kushner (D), State Senate

With three children of my own who attended local public schools, I know how important it is to have strong advocates for public schools in office. I will work to fully fund our schools with resources to attract excellent teachers, keep our classrooms safe, and reduce class sizes, so that each child gets the support they need, and prevent valuable resources from going to charter schools. I also strongly believe we need to invest in universal pre-K, so that all young children go to kindergarten with the necessary foundations of learning, regardless of family wealth or opportunity.

Will Duff (R), Incumbant, State Representative

Representative Duff's campaign didn't provide responses. Please see their website for their positions on local issues.

Raghib Ailee-Brennan (D), State Representative

As a proud Wildcat and graduate of Bethel Public Schools, I know the importance of a strong, quality public education system. When elected, I will prioritize fixing the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula so that Bethel receives its fair share of resources to educate our children.

I will support policies and legislation that invest in vocational tech, community colleges, and universities, and I'll fight to lower tuition and stand up for teachers.

Stephen Harding (R) , Incumbant, State Representative

It is critical that we properly fund our local education. As State Representative, I have always placed the funding of our local students at the forefront. I have put in multiple proposals regarding increasing ECS funding to our local schools and will continue to do so.

Dennis Pearson (D), State Representative

We need to make education a top priority and fully fund our schools. In order for our district to succeed, Connecticut must succeed and that starts with great education. Every town, rural community, and city must have the resources they need to properly educate our youth. We must also invest in technical high schools and trade programs in community colleges to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.

How will you improve economic conditions in our district?

Toni Boucher (R), Incumbant, State Senate

The state's struggling economy, high cost of living and slow growing jobs market combined is the biggest challenge that impacts all people in Connecticut. We need a vibrant economy that attracts employers to our state because jobs are key to high quality of life and a ladder out of poverty. To do this, Connecticut must change. For too long Connecticut has over-relied on its taxpayer's credit card and made new promises without first being able to afford core services already promised. That's hurt Connecticut's financial health and made our state unattractive to employers and families. In order to invite opportunity, we need budgets that live within the state's means, that reduce burdens on families and job creators, and that protect core services like education and transportation to make our state a place where people will want to live, work and raise a family. That also means protecting values people care about including women's rights and fighting hate crimes. The past two bipartisan budgets have shown just a taste of what we can accomplish if the state started to adopt some elements of this strategy. But we have more work ahead to improve Connecticut for today and for the next generation.

Jobs-

Connecticut has yet to recover from its job loss of the great recession. It's imperative we move towards cutting business and payroll costs, shorten the state permitting process, reduce burdensome regulations, remove the prevailing wage mandate and apply designated financial resources to road and rail improvements thus reducing commuting time.

Develop and cultivate a highly trained work force by partnering with business and aligning the educational system with skills needed by manufacturing and emerging companies in areas of advanced engineering, cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, renewable energy solar/fuel cells, STEM, medical devices and material science.

Instead of quick unsustainable solutions like a casino in Bridgeport – let's eliminate property taxes in blighted areas of our inner-cities spurring business Innovation clusters – thus creating a pro-business ecosystem of growth and real life change.

Life here has become unaffordable for residents and businesses. They are taxed beyond tolerance, moving away in droves. Unemployment in our cities is in the double digits. There are few jobs for young people and no job security for people lucky enough to be employed.

We have only regained just over 80% of jobs lost since the recession while MA has regained 300%, before GE moved there.

With diminishing disposable income, people cannot buy houses, goods, or services. We can do better with new bold leadership with the courage to move CT in a new direction.

We must restore their confidence, stability and predictably in our state! They want to be able to afford to live and work in Connecticut – to own or rent a home, raise a family, run a business, and retire here. They can't afford increased taxes on income, pensions, gas, business profits, real estate, inheritance, and gifts.

They want a job market that offers opportunity and security. They want their roads, bridges, and trains fixed before the state builds anything new. They want affordable higher education for their children. They want high-performing schools and good, good healthcare plans.

Lowering taxes would make our state attractive for people and businesses, thereby preserving and expanding Connecticut's tax base. Business creates value for everyone, because jobs are the best antidote to poverty.

A pro-business climate is possible only if leaders believe that business is good, and that profit is good.

Government should create a supportive climate for business, and then get out of the way.

The first step in reducing taxes is to cap state government spending. Other states have done this successfully, getting costs under control and ensuring the solvency of retirement and healthcare plans.

We must identify services that can be performed better and more cost efficiently by community-based nonprofits.

We must restrict borrowing to essential capital improvements and infrastructure investments, and bring debt in line with guidelines for strong agency ratings. We must spend strategically on transportation and education.

The objective of our state's leadership should be to make Connecticut once again the envy of the country for its low taxes, friendly business climate, excellent schools, and a superior quality of life and to ensure that it's a place where hard work and success are rewarded and people feel they have a future here.

Will Haskell (D), State Senate

My opponent and I agree that it's time to get Connecticut's economy back on track. We disagree, however, on the solutions. Slashing taxes with impunity might sound nice, but it will erode our ability to fund crucial state services. Instead, I want to provide the next generation of workers and businesses with opportunities to succeed.

Connecticut graduates 40,000 students every year from some of the best universities and colleges in the world. It's time to be proactive in encouraging those graduates to start their careers, families and small businesses here.

As your State Senator, I will propose a public-private student loan forgiveness program that incentivizes Connecticut's recent college graduates to stay here, while encouraging job creators and educators to work together to prepare students for high-tech jobs in the 21st century. Finally, I'll work to raise our minimum wage to $15, so that every Connecticut worker can earn a living wage.

Michael McLachlan (R), Incumbant, State Senate

Senator McLachlan's campaign didn't provide responses. Please see their website for their positions on local issues.

Julie Kushner (D), State Senate

Far too many young people in the Greater Danbury area are leaving for New York. Universal Pre-K, a 15-dollar minimum wage and guaranteed paid family and medical leave for all workers are essential to improving economic conditions in our district. More people having money to spend in their communities will drive economic growth in Connecticut and out compete our neighboring states.

Will Duff (R), Incumbant, State Representative

Representative Duff's campaign didn't provide responses. Please see their website for their positions on local issues.

Raghib Ailee-Brennan (D), State Representative

A strong Connecticut is rooted in a stronger economy that works for ALL. I have the professional experience and the small-business values to push for greater investment in hometown businesses. I have worked with Connecticut business owners to help them grow their companies by securing grants and loans from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. I will work to protect small businesses and increase state support for small and minority-owned businesses.

I will fight for a progressive economy where everyone has access to a well paying job and the chance at a good life for themselves and their families.

I will fight for a budget that spends wisely and brings money back from Hartford to keep our area affordable. I will work to expand workforce training opportunities (e.g., technical and vocational schools). I'll fight for a livable wage and for equality in the workplace. I believe that greater workplace diversity is a competitive business advantage for Connecticut businesses and I'll work to encourage greater diversity across all business and industry sectors.

Stephen Harding (R) , Incumbant, State Representative

We as a State need to relieve the tax burden placed on residents and businesses alike. Relieving this burden will help our local businesses invest and grow their companies. I am also committed to investing in the amazing highlights of our district such as the Downtown and train station in Bethel and Candlewood and Lillinonah Lakes in Brookfield.

Dennis Pearson (D), State Representative

In order to attract more businesses to Connecticut, we must invest in our future by investing in education, infrastructure, job-training programs, and small businesses. Improving our rail system and highways, keeping our workforce in Connecticut, and having the best education in the country will attract businesses and grow our economy. Also, investing in small businesses to help them expand operations is vital to the success of our district and state.

How will you improve the environment?

Toni Boucher (R), Incumbant, State Senate

My record on the environment is based on a set of values and not on politics. My strong environmental beliefs were developed as a farmer's daughter, born in a farm house not a hospital. I was surrounded by open space, natural water sources, fields, gardens, livestock- the good earth from birth. My top concerns are clean water, reducing the use of plastics and addressing the need for more and better mass transit options.

As an elected official it is my responsibility not only to represent your interests but to get results. I have the highest environmental score in the State Senate this year and why Connecticut League of Conservation voters endorsed me for the 26th senate race on November 6th.

My environment goals include investing in clean water infrastructure, addressing raw sewage leakage; reducing plastic pollution; promoting mass transit; electrification of all train lines; and increasing clean air with greater use of electric cars, shared solar and alternative fuels. In 2018, I received the highest Environmental Score in the Senate and have been endorsed by CT Fund for the Environment

The action that is needed includes:

Build a 40% renewable energy future by 2030 and creating new, high quality jobs; Implement a comprehensive net metering program, creating fair solar compensation for ratepayers; Expand Shared Solar access; Invest in offshore wind and energy storage; Electrify the transportation sector and accelerate adoption of clean cars; Fight new fossil fuel expansion (gas plants, pipelines, and offshore drilling); Protect energy efficiency programs that cut pollution and save residents and businesses money; Restore clean energy efficiency funds that were raided in 2017; Continue sustained investment in our Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy Funds.

Long Island Sound is the ecological and cultural heart of our region—a livelihood for fishermen and oyster farmers, rich nursery for fish and birds, and source of joy for generations of families. But it's also vulnerable to pollution, habitat loss, and the effects of climate change. The Sound is an economic engine, producing at least $17 billion in economic activity that is dependent on clean water all around its shores.

Will Haskell (D), State Senate

Connecticut must revamp its strategies for the preservation of the Long Island Sound, remediation of our state's brownfields, and sourcing of renewable energy. Many of Hartford's environmental protection efforts have either failed to address these issues or failed to provide sustainable long-term plans.

As your State Senator, I will fight for the initiatives proposed in the 2018 Comprehensive Energy Strategy to reduce Connecticut's carbon footprint. I'll also support increasing renewable energy mandates for public utilities, as well as initiatives to make renewable energy solutions more socioeconomically accessible.

Michael McLachlan (R), Incumbant, State Senate

Senator McLachlan's campaign didn't provide responses. Please see their website for their positions on local issues.

Julie Kushner (D), State Senate

Climate change is real, and we must take immediate steps to reduce carbon pollution and other threats to our air and water before our children and grandchildren are forced to pay the price. Locally, my family has always enjoyed the natural beauty of Candlewood Lake and I'll make its protection a top priority in the State Senate, along with passing tougher air pollution standards and investing in clean energy jobs.

Will Duff (R), Incumbant, State Representative

Representative Duff's campaign didn't provide responses. Please see their website for their positions on local issues.

Raghib Ailee-Brennan (D), State Representative

As a former energy and environment policy adviser in the U.S. House of Representatives, I developed deep policy knowledge on energy and environmental issues and drafted environmental protection legislation that received bipartisan support. I also served as a lead staffer in efforts to secure Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding, and testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights regarding environmental justice issues. You can count on me to be a vigorous defender of our public lands and I will do everything possible to preserve and protect our state's most beautiful environments.

Stephen Harding (R) , Incumbant, State Representative

I have committed to investing existing funds towards our local lakes and waterways to assist in the infestation of invasive species. Additionally, I have supported legislation which puts a vibrant focus on securing further renewable energy resources.

I have committed to investing existing funds towards our local lakes and waterways to assist in the infestation of invasive species. Additionally, I have supported legislation which puts a vibrant focus on securing further renewable energy resources.

Dennis Pearson (D), State Representative

We must strengthen our environmental protection laws and hold companies accountable who harm our environment. We must ensure we are preparing our next generation for the effects of climate change by teaching climate change education in our schools. In addition, we must build our infrastructure more resilient to withstand the effects of stronger storms due to climate change.

How will you improve public health?

Toni Boucher (R), Incumbant, State Senate

While the ACA had that laudable goal of increasing insurance coverage for individuals, it has not been able to accomplish this without significant increases in premiums for consumers. Providing coverage with individuals with pre-existing conditions is expensive, but it is something that we should do.

However, various factors including the inability of the state's health exchange to bring more insurance carriers into the marketplace has caused the price of insurance to be higher than it otherwise could be. Additionally, one of the programs that the ACA had in place to help contain costs – reinsurance – is no longer in place.

The state, in an attempt to bring healthcare costs under control could institute its own reinsurance program. The reinsurance program would provide assistance to insurance companies who insure individuals that have high costs. In helping to contain the costs of insurance companies, the hope is that premium costs would be contained for consumers. The reinsurance program would be a state-federal partnership done through the ACA's 1332 waiver program. Other states that have pursued and implemented such a program have seen positive impacts. In Minnesota, some individuals enrolled in silver level plans saw a decrease of 15% in their premiums.

Will Haskell (D), State Senate

With 21.54% of our population covered by Husky Care, Connecticut is a national leader in health insurance coverage. But there's still room for improvement. Our healthcare exchange has only two providers, leading to high premiums and lower quality care. Low and moderate income families deserve better options.

As your State Senator, I will promote the "Husky E" healthcare initiative , a sustainable public option for healthcare, and I'll fight to diversify the Connecticut health insurance exchange in order to enhance competition, reduce premiums and improve the quality of coverage. Most importantly, I'll work to ensure that the Affordable Care Act's "ten essential health benefits" are implemented in all individual and small business insurance plans.

Michael McLachlan (R), Incumbant, State Senate

Senator McLachlan's campaign didn't provide responses. Please see their website for their positions on local issues.

Julie Kushner (D), State Senate


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