A 26-year incumbent is being challenged for the state House seat representing the 110th District in Danbury. Democrat Bob Godfrey is seeking a 14th term. Republican Emanuela Palmares is looking to unseat the Deputy House Speaker.
Palmares says the district has change a lot in the last two and a half decades. She says there are different needs and challenges facing the constituents of the district. She believes a government should be reflective of the people it's serving.
Godfrey touted Connecticut as being one of the safest states in the country, in part because of the gun laws passed in 2013. He praised the deal to keep Sikorsky in the state, because there are several suppliers in Danbury that Sikorsky uses. As a Navy veteran, Godfrey says he's proud of Connecticut's role in the defense industry. He acknowledged that there is some dissatisfaction with government. He said he's tried his best to help people in the district. He said another accomplishment he's proud of is bringing back money to the district for school building projects. He's pleased to see the rehabilitation of the Glen Apartments in the Roger's Park area.
As a mother of a child with special needs, Palmares says she would like her son to attend public school, but notes that there isn't enough funding in Danbury for special needs programs. As an immigrant who came to Danbury from Brazil without speaking English, saw her parents go from a construction worker and a house cleaner to being small business owners. Her family founded The Tribuna, a bilingual newspaper. Palmares says they are feeling the burden of the state's tax and regulatory climate. She is also a member of the Danbury Aging in Place Council.
The court ruling ordering the legislature to overhaul the state's education system is being appealed to the State Supreme Court. But Godfrey says he hopes portions of the judge's ruling will be taken up. He wants to change the Education Cost Sharing formula. Godfrey says it's going to be a difficult discussion because towns receiving a lot of funding, will not want to vote for a decrease.
Education funding will be a priority for Palmares if elected. She says the legislature needs to remember that there is a difference between equity and equality. Palmares believes that's how education funding should be reworked. She wants equity, giving people what they need, as opposed to equality and giving everyone the same thing. She says the judge's ruling is an opportunity for a fresh start and to be able to affect generations to come. Palmares noted that up to 50% of students in the district are English Language Learners.
Palmares says if municipalities can bring grades up for ESL students, they won't get funding because they're a failing school district they'll get funding because they're doing well. She says better education will lead to more families looking to move into the district. Palmares also says better education will lead to better jobs.
Godfrey is proposing to deduct the interest paid on student loans from the state income tax from adjusted gross income. He wants to make things easier for people going into their first job and for people changing careers. He says good jobs, with good wages, is the both the short and long-term answer to what Connecticut needs to do to turn things around.
The number one thing to fix transportation problems, Palmares says is to create an enforceable lockbox for infrastructure funds. She also called for a better working mass transit system. Palmares says it's hard to move around the state without a car, and that affects quality of life.
An area he would like to work on if reelected is to figure out how to make the Transportation Fund inaccessible for expenditures that aren't transportation projects. Godfrey says the problem with a lockbox is that someone has a key. He wants to figure out who would hold the key. He proposed an oversight board, but getting consensus on that has been an issue. He says the Governor's 30-year, $100 billion plan is a good plan on how to move forward. But the big question is how to pay for all of the proposals. Godfrey says the mileage tax is not a viable option for Connecticut. He is also opposed to tolls. Godfrey says something that has to get resolve is electric cars not using as much gasoline, but wearing out the roads.
Godfrey says Connecticut lost 27% of the state's revenue in a three-week span during the crash of 2008. He says by creating jobs, the state will continue to turn the economy around. The Connecticut Next Program provides funding to groups around the state to become business incubators. Godfrey says the Hackerspace at Danbury Library has applied for funding. He says a man looking to do an agricultural start up by doing high-rise farming could apply as well.
Palmares says the Connecticut Next Program works will for innovative businesses, but small businesses that aren't tech-related have a hard time being viable in Connecticut. As for the Small Business Express Program, she would like to see changes. She says in order to get a loan a business has to be in near-excellent condition, but business need loans when they need help. Palmares would like to see a climate that encourages people to stay rather than paying people to stay. She encouraged bipartisanship to look at how to make Connecticut a sustainable place to live and work.
Work to improve mental health services and early intervention is another area Godfrey would like to address. He acknowledged the challenges to that; it's expensive and the outcomes vary from person to person.
Palmares says a lot of people are on fixed incomes so she would like to focus on social services. She related a story about seniors struggling to budget when the senior center got rid of the Wednesday lunch. She also noted that 60% to 70% of families in the school system in the district are part of the free or reduced price lunch program.
Seniors and millennials can be served in a similar way, according to Palmares. She says both age groups want a vibrant downtown and a walkable community. She is concerned that her son won't be able to afford to live in Connecticut when he is older.
Godfrey addressed GE leaving Fairfield for Boston. He says GE also pulled jobs out of Wisconsin for Canada. Godfrey says that's because Gov. Scott Walker's austerity budget killed the business climate in that state. For a while, corporations wanted suburban campuses, but now they're moving back to big cities. He says for too long Connecticut has neglected its cities. He would like to see Connecticut cities better develop their cultural, arts and dining districts to attract the creative class. He says there also has to be affordable housing, not luxury housing, and an atmosphere in a downtown where people can meet up and live without a car.