A freshman lawmaker is being challenged by a political newcomer in the 106th state House District. Mitch Bolinsky is the Republican incumbent. He is being challenged by Matt Cole, a recent Western Connecticut State University graduate and social worker. Bolinsky says there’s still a lot of work that he wants to do in the legislature. Some of the areas he’s proud of this past session included toughening drunken driving laws and moving funding forward for the rebuilding of Sandy Hook School. Another initiative he touted was to include private and parochial schools in the state’s program to fund security improvements.
During a candidate forum held last week by the Newtown Bee, Cole said he feels there are no constructive conversations taking place in Hartford. He noted that as a trained social worker, he is adept at working as a consensus. He interned with former state Representative Chris Lyddy.
Bolinsky says Connecticut has an economy that’s not working the way it should be. He says something has to be done to attract business, not picking winners and losers like the First Five program. Bolinsky referring to a program implemented by Governor Malloy that provides funding to companies in exchange for relocating to and within Connecticut. He says lowering taxes, both on corporations and individuals, will make Connecticut more competitive with other states, and a place that people want to live. Bolinsky says making Connecticut more affordable to live and do business here is the first step to growing jobs, gaining employment numbers and getting the state’s economy back on the right track.
Cole says people are struggling because wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living. Property taxes for seniors who bought their houses decades ago and aren’t worth what they were, which he says poses a serious burden. He wants to work with Newtown’s Economic Development Commission to learn what he can do to help the town succeed. Cole suggested having a so-called Buffet rule in Connecticut where people making seven-figures or more a year pay more taxes to fund programs that serve the people scraping by or are living in extreme poverty.
Bolinsky says it’s important to get Common Core right. He calls implementation a rushed process and he wants more input from parents, teachers and students. He says it’s very testing intensive and doesn’t have a lot of flexibility for practical learning and creativity in the classroom.
Cole says he likes the idea of Common Core, but that the implementation was rushed. He says there are some pros to it, in that it allows teachers more resources to work with students that are at different levels. He also touted that Common Core develops critical thinking. But he says students were left out of the process of what Common Core standards should look like.
Bolinsky says Connecticut ranks 49th or 50th in terms of infrastructure stability. He wants lawmakers and others to stop raiding the Special Transportation Fund for money to plug holes in the state budget. He believes transportation money should be used for transportation with investments in infrastructure to replace years of neglect. Bolinsky says he was discouraged to hear that the state Department of Transportation has tabled a project to expand Interstate 84 between Danbury and Waterbury from two lanes to three. He says he wants to continue to push for that project to be brought back to life.
Cole says roads and bridges need to be repaired in an effort to attract business to the state. He says people are frustrated with the state of roads in the state. Cole says expanding the highway would be a priority for him. He thinks the roadways should be able to hand the population today, not 40 years ago.
Bolinsky says open space is important to the character of Newtown. In the private sector, he helped write a part of the 2009 Clean Energy Act. It’s now law in California and in Congress to reduce global warming from vehicle air conditioning systems.
Bolinsky says in the wake of the legislature’s work in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook School, and in anticipation of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission’s report, there will be more work to address the issues that stemmed from that tragedy. He says with the so-called gun bill adopted last year, by no means does the state have the solutions to prevent another similar tragedy. He says there must be a focus on mental health. He calls early detection key. He wants to see programs implemented that prevent people from reaching the point where they become a danger to themselves or the community. He wants to continue to make schools safe, while making them a happy place for them to learn, grow and prosper.
Cole says the gun law passed last year should only be strengthened. He thinks open carry laws in Connecticut need to change. He also called fore more early intervention for elementary school aged children when it comes to mental health care. Cole says more community support programs and proper funding for those programs is needed. He cited Ability Beyond Disability and other similar organizations in the region having to fold into other groups because they don’t have enough resources or funding. Cole says there is a large underserved population that could benefit from more services.