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Freshman lawmaker challenged by New Milford Board of Finance member

Republican Cecilia Buck-Taylor was elected in 2012 to the 67th district House seat, having prior experience serving as vice-chair of the New Milford Town Council.  She is a member of the Finance, Environment, and Judiciary committees.  She says there were quite a few bills that were passed last session that's proud of including one dealing with veterans and increasing their employment opportunities.  Buck-Taylor touted her work in bringing grant funding to New Milford for brownfield remediation.


Democrat Gale Alexander has been on the Board of Finance for the past 12 years, has run mayoral and state senate campaigns and holds a teaching certification.


He says the municipal tax system is antiquated, assessment methods from the 18th century.  He says with the new economy, there’s still manufacturing and agriculture, but more businesses without a real property for municipalities to tax.  He says that creates an imbalance between businesses that are heavily capitalized and retail businesses.  He says the current system dealing with property tax is based on a property assessment that doesn’t really represent the people.  He gave the example of retired people who own homes equivalent to their neighbors who may be still working.  He is suggesting an alternate income tax based on the Grand List and mil rate.  He would substitute property value numbers with income value numbers.


Alexander says that would more equitably spread the tax burden across the base.  He says farmers for example would gain from this.  Agricultural land is taxed at a lower rate, but he says a New Milford resident can’t put a building up for his product because his taxes would go up.  Alexander says farmland preservation plays into his push for a change in taxes.


She supported a Task Force being created to review the state's tax structure.  She wants unfunded mandates to be examined as well.  Buck-Taylor says the pension fund is underfunded.  She says the state should live within its means, and that isn't a matter of wanting something and raising taxes in order to get it.  She was also critical of taking money from designated funds to pay for other items and services. 


When it comes to education reforms, Buck-Taylor says there is more to be done and some things that should be undone.  She does not support Common Core, in part because there was no public hearing before it was implemented.  She doesn't believe in having one-size fits all.  She hopes another look at Common Core will be made.  She says the Educational Cost Sharing formula is woefully under funded .  She notes that the formula for children with learning disabilities is not done in an equitable manner.  She believes the state should give the towns the support they need to give education to kids in a fashion the town knows is the right way.


Alexander says he wants to look at changing how high schools are evaluated.  He says technical education system and community colleges play an integral role in the future of Connecticut.  He says there are jobs in manufacturing that are going unfilled because there are no programs to train new workers.  He says these offer an alternative path to success in life.  Alexander says attending college is sort of expected today, but some students end up leaving after a couple of years and a lot of student loans.  He says that leaves kids with tremendous debt, no degree and no prospect to a good job to pay off that debt because of a push toward four-year colleges.  He says one-size does not fit all and there are plenty of jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.


Buck-Taylor says she would support an expansion of Metro North's Danbury branch up to New Milford, and would like to see rail service provided all the way to Massachusetts.  She says Connecticut's roads and bridges are rated as some of the worst in the nation, in part because hundreds of millions of dollars are taken out of the Special Transportation Fund and put into the general fund.  Buck-Taylor says when something reaches desperate conditions, the state bonds for it and then residents will have to pay interest on it.  She says businesses aren't happy with the conditions of the roads and trucks having to use local routes to avoid congestion. 


Buck-Taylor hopes now that the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission has had time to review the issues connected to the 2012 shootings in Newtown, she hopes school safety and mental health will be addressed .  Years back the state closed a lot of the mental hospitals in Connecticut and she says people were dumped out onto the streets.  She wants a look taken at that, and also at children who are transferred from one school to another that people know are in trouble.  She was critical of the so-called gun bill being passed by emergency certification with no committee review and public hearing.


Alexander touted constituent service as what he would most like to bring to the district.  He says there has to be a concerted effort to be in touch with the people you represent.  He encouraged people to stay involved and voice opinions on what is effecting day to day life.


Buck-Taylor wants to increase opportunities in the state for veterans, businesses and seniors.  She also wants to educate and protect children in a fiscally responsible manner so that the state can somehow come up with a tax system that relies less on property taxes.  She wants to continue to work to keep farmlands productive and in a low-tax environment.

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