A political newcomer is challenging a Ridgefield state Representative seeking his 10th term in office. Incumbent Republican Representative John Frey has served 18 years in the 111th District. He says he's been an advocate for the community, is a businessman in Ridgefield and has a pulse on the needs of the community.
Democrat Joseph Dowdell grew up in Minnesota, was active in Boy Scouts and earned the Eagle Award. He has a degree in electrical engineering and is currently an engineer in the high voltage industry. He believes Connecticut is at a cross roads and needs new and innovative ideas. He says it's time to bring progress to the state.
The education funding fairness judicial ruling, will likely have implications for the next General Assembly. Frey called it a large issue, that can't be tackled in only 180 days. He says the education funding formula is very complicated, and needs to be reformed. But he disagreed with other parts of the ruling. Frey says part of the decision sounds to him like some special education students would be denied services. The judge also called for a program to evaluate teachers and superintendents. Frey says that was implemented in 2014, is phasing in now and hasn't had a chance to work. He says Ridgefield lost 50% of funding in ECS last year.
Dowdell says there are some issues with the ECS formula. Regardless of the court outcome, education benefits everyone and should be made as best as possible. Dowdell says the workforce needs to be bolstered with an educated population. He says he will fight to bring money back to the district, whether it's for education or for small business assistance or helping seniors stay in their homes.
The opioid overdose epidemic is being addressed on the state level with some legislation implemented in the last session. Frey says the state is doing what it can in terms of funding, train first responders and provide treatment centers. He says during a visit to a rehab facility in Danbury, one client told him that she thought the state sent the wrong message about drug use and abuse with the decriminalization of marijuana. He says the state needs to play a role in a community response.
Dowdell says overdose deaths is a growing problem, on par with motor vehicle deaths. He says it's easy to fall into the opioid abuse cycle. He agrees with keeping an eye on the amount of prescriptions written.
Frey says the state is already in the middle of a phase-in of a higher minimum wage. He says what gets lost in the conversation is the decision facing small businesses; do they not hire people or let people go. Frey says talk of another hike is premature.
Dowdell supports an increase in the minimum wage. He says research is needed, with the input of business, about what that wage should be. But he says he would shoot for a $15 minimum wage. Dowdell says good paying jobs come from having good education. He says training local talent who will stay in Connecticut is key.
Frey says he is unpredictable on gun bills. He had an A rating from the NRA and voted for the bill that followed 12-14, which resulted in an F rating. When it comes to a bill on confiscating guns from people who are the subject of a temporary restraining order, he voted against it. He says this bill is likely to give victims a false sense of security. Frey says when there is a gun permit, police remove firearms from the home immediately when someone calls 911 about a violent situation. Frey called the restraining order bill a poorly written one, which intended to do good things but was flawed.
Dowdell says people in domestic violence situations are 5 times more likely to be killed when there is a gun present. He would support future legislation like it.
Frey was an outspoken critic of state measures he says forced GE to move. He says the corporation left Fairfield because of the state's unpredictable tax policy. He cited retroactive tax increases specifically. He called for long term planning and tax stability. Frey says there have only been bandaid budget deficit fixes following two of the biggest tax increases in the state's history. He said emphatically that the Democratic majority would raise taxes if they keep their majority.
Dowdell says a budget challenge is revenue instability because of a reliance on the financial sector. He says a program set up to set aside tax revenue to be put into the budget reserve fund is one step. He wants to look at incorporating long term planning into budgeting, limit the governor's bonding authority on non-economic development-related plans and move away from the current property tax system.
As for transportation funding, Frey says additional revenue isn't needed. He believes the special Transportation Fund needs to be used for transportation. He says border tolls are a non-starter. Frey opposed a mileage tax. He says the gas tax is supposed to fund infrastructure, and that's where it should go.
Dowdell says when he hears the word 'infrastructure'; he doesn't just think transportation. He also thinks high-speed internet, upgrading the power grid and renewable energy. He says upgrading these things is good for business, will create jobs, is good for the environment and will reduce energy costs.