Seven invited Democratic gubernatorial candidates addressed a wide range of issues once the forum at Brookfield High School got under way last night. They shared their opinions on everything from how to get the state's fiscal situation back on track, how to improve transportation and where they stand on gun control laws.
There was a lot of agreement on the idea of expanding alternative energy, improving rail lines and having universal pre-k education in Connecticut. They mostly agreed on the need for tolls to fund transportation improvements. The candidates differed on immigration policy, but did concur that the Dreamers and DACA should be protected. Several backed the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana.
When it comes to the achievement gap in Connecticut, many suggested that the education cost sharing formula needs to be overhauled. Several also backed the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana. Many were also in agreement on the need to work with employers to match curriculum to open jobs, and to better promote vo-tech schools.
(Bronin, Bysiewicz, Connolly, Ganim, Harris, Lamont, Smith)
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin advocated for tolls in his opening remarks, saying that in order to attract jobs, there needs to be better transit. He added that the state's fiscal problems are felt first at the local level and property taxes. He suggested letting municipalities implement new revenue streams like a hotel tax ot a food and beverage tax. Bronin called the pension fund the state's biggest liability. Bronin said lawmakers need to overhaul the ECS formula to make budget-guessing easier for mayors and first selectmen. He wants to formula based on ESL, changes in population, special ed needs and other factor. Bronin wants to build relationships between colleges and employers, not just manufacturers but also coding and computer science. When it comes to immigration, Bronin said he is proud to be mayor of a sanctuary city.
Former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz opened her remarks by saying that she wants to make Connecticut a place where seniors and young people can stay. She touted her work to create what she called a hack-proof election system. Bysiewicz said the way to attract jobs is through better education and better transit. She touted the Connecticut Green Bank as way to promote renewable energy. In order to make state government more efficient, Bysiewicz cited her work as Secretary of the State. She noted that the officer had 110 employees when she was first elected, and was able to do more with less and had 79 employees when she decided not to seek reelection. Bysiewicz supports the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana, a transportation funding lockbox and universal pre-k. Free community college for financially needy students, she said could be paid for by closing a $520 million hedge fund loophole.
Former state Veteran Affairs Commissioner Sean Connolly suggested that the state not go after the Amazons, but help small business scale up. He says that would gain Connecticut more jobs than are proposed from Amazon HQ2. He also called fore more investment in the Connecticut Green Bank. Connolly also suggested creating a similar public-private collaboration for funding called the Connecticut Infrastructure Bank. He says that would grow skilled, union worker jobs. He is a proponent of tolls, universal pre-K and grants for renewable energy. When it comes to reducing student loan debt, Connolly suggested targeted investments in associate degrees, loan forgiveness for going into jobs in Connecticut and other initiatives.
Former Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim started by tackling his conviction head on, calling himself the second chance candidate. He wants to attract jobs through better transportation. Ganim noted that Bridgeport is closing the City's last coal burning plant on the waterfront, which will be replaced with clean energy. A thermal loop is being installed. In order to solve the state's fiscal problems, he said alternate sources of revenue are needed, including tolls and legalized recreational marijuana. He also said the pension system needs to be addressed. When it comes to closing the achievement gap, Ganim called for universal pre-K. He also wants to see an investment in afterschool programs for mentoring, which he says will also keep kids engaged in a safe environment. Bridgeport sanctuary city.
Former Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris calls himself a progressive problem solver. He wants to attract business by cutting regulations, clean up blighted properties to make the state more attractive, and change the tax structure. He is an electronic toll advocate, but only if the gas tax is cut. Harris wants to better connect curriculum to students and jobs, and publicize financial aid availability. He suggested having UConn or CSUS students manage forest lands, pumping the board fees back into education. Harris touted the state's medical marijuana program, which he oversaw creation of as Commissioner. As for immigration, as a state lawmaker he backed in-state tuition for undocumented students.
Businessman Ned Lamont called for fundamental changes in Connecticut, starting with fixing the state's education system. He noted that Connecticut doesn't need more taxes, the state need more taxpayers. On the other hand, he wants to look at the digital economy to raise new revenue, lowering the property tax. Lamont is a toll advocate and a backer of legalized recreational marijuana. Since running against Dannel Malloy eight years ago, he has been a professor at Central Connecticut State University. Lamont called for universal pre-k, higher pay for teachers, and forgiving student debt for those who go on to teach in Connecticut's urban centers. Lamont said Governor Malloy takes a lot of hits, but should get credit for being a leader on criminal justice reforms. He backs DACA, saying that ICE can enforce ICE laws.
Political newcomer Guy Smith held some different positions from the other candidates. He believes in what he called sensible gun control, equal pay, and protections of reproductive rights. Smith said there should be no new taxes, and that means no tolls. He railed against Eversource Energy as having received a tax cut through the recently enacted federal tax overhaul, saying the utility is beholden to Wall Street not ratepayers. Smith was also critical of the state Department of Transportation for spending too much on Walk Bridge, and paying more for infrastructure work than neighboring states. He noted that there are the same weather conditions and the same traffic passing through, but Connecticut pays more. Smith backs universal pre-K and expanding vo-tech schools.