A political newcomer is looking to unseat a two term incumbent in Danbury's 109th State House District.
Democrat David Arconti Jr. says there are a lot of things that he's been able to accomplish for Danbury. One was a project he took on at the request of Mayor Mark Boughton. That was increasing the reimbursement for the Danbury High School expansion project. Usually schools construction projects are guaranteed a 62% reimbursement rate. Arconti says Danbury schools are underfunded in the Education Cost Sharing formula and a growing district, so he was able to make the case for 80% reimbursement.
Arconti says he's been able to increase municipal aid funding to the City in his two terms. He wants to continue that work in a third term. He says education funding will be one of the top three issues the legislature needs to work on in the coming session. He says parents, teachers and other want change to how Danbury is funded by the state. He says the problem has been that legislators don't want funding decreases and that has led to a lot of other towns being overfunded, even though their enrollment is decreasing.
Republican Veasna Roeun has spent most of his life in Danbury. His family came to America in 1983 as a war refugee from Cambodia. He served in the United States Army National Guard and was deployed to conduct peace-keeping missions in the Balkans and then for combat operations in Afghanistan. He went on to earn a degree in Justice and Law Administration from Western Connecticut State University.
Roeun then worked for the state Department of Labor. He promoted the Governor's Advanced Manufacturing Initiative by helping to create the Southwest Manufacturing Consortium and Greater Danbury Manufacturing Working Group. Roeun also served on the Military Occupation and Licensing Legislative Task Force. The group worked to pass a bill making it easier for returning veterans to obtain licenses and certificates needed to advance their careers.
When it comes to education, Roeun says there's a classroom shortage at Shelter Rock Elementary School that he would like to see remedied. He says the problem is two parts: students who live practically across the street are bused to another school in the City or they have to have classes in "pods", temporary mobile classrooms.
Arconti says it was a local decision not to expand the physical building, but to go with the portable classrooms. He says he did help secure the state funding needed for the City project.
Rouen worked with Henry Abbott Technical High School while he was with the state Department of Labor, and would like to see more funding for that school so more people can take advantage of that resource. He wants to foster a good environment to increase manufacturing jobs.
While there were significant budget cuts last year, but Arconti says Connecticut can't cut its way back to prosperity. He wants to grow the bioscience in the state to bring in good quality, high paying jobs. He says an educated workforce is needed for these high tech manufacturing and STEM jobs. In order to bolster those industries, Arconti touted the Entrepreneurship Learner's Permit. He says that allows new businesses to be reimbursed for fees associated with state filing, permitting and licensing. Arconti says that should help knock down one barrier the business community has told lawmakers about.
Roeun says the state is putting band aids on the economy, and those aren't the solutions needed in this economic climate. He says there's a lot of wasted spending in Hartford. He says cuts to services for people with special needs or mental health problems need to be reversed. Roeun agrees with some of the gun safety measures passed in 2013, but disagrees with other portions. He says the mental health side of gun control needs to be addressed.
Roeun says the state doesn't have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. He was critical of retroactive tax hikes placed on businesses. He called for a hiring freeze, and to take back some administrative raises that were issued in the last few years.
Arconti opposes border tolls. He called the idea an unfair fee on Danbury area residents. He notes that on a per capita basis, Danbury already contributes among the most tax dollars to the state. He supports a Transportation Funding Lockbox. He says transit orient development is a key policy idea that needs to be explored. Arconti says young people want to live near restaurants, stores and jobs that are easily walked to or easily reached by mass transit. He worked last year to make sure Danbury was included on a list of cities to receive grant money to spur residential and commercial growth near a transit hub. Danbury received a $225,000 grant, which he says that was great for CityCenter.
Transportation is a top priority that Roeun is hearing from people. He was critical of the New Britain to Hartford Busway. He would have preferred to see that money used to expand Interstate 84 from the state line all the way out to Waterbury. He says the Special Transportation Fund shouldn't be used to pay pensions and other bills. He is opposed to a proposed mileage tax and opposed to tolls. He called it a waste of taxpayer money to study a mileage tax if no one intends to implement it.
In 2014, the delegation from the five towns that surround Candlewood Lake were able to work on an invasive species grant program. The Lake is being stocked with sterile carp to eat milfoil. He wants to tackle the blue-green algae issue as well. Over the summer, municipal officials and the Candlewood Lake Authority told state lawmakers that if the blue-green algae bloom was bad this year, it could lead to a month long closure of the whole lake. He says that would be detrimental to the area. A program currently in existence, the Community Investment Act, provides funding for openspace and farmland preservation. He wants to explore if a revenue stream from that program to various lake authorities to help them get more resources to fight invasive species and algae blooms.
Roeun wants to make Connecticut a place where people can live, work and then retire. He called it shameful that the state taxes social security and inheritance.