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Political newcomer seeks to unseat 30-year incumbent in Danbury

Danbury state Representative Bob Godfrey has been in office for 30 years and is seeking another term in office.  He is being challenged in the 110th district by Republican Erin Domenech.  She volunteers with the Elks Lodge, an organization helping children and veterans. 

Domenech does not support tolling.  She compared it to the idea of opening liquor stores on Sundays, which was thought to bring in millions of dollars.  But she says no one took into account overhead and the fact that people would just spread out their shopping and not shop more.  On tolls, she says Connecticut may be liable, retroactively, for extra federal funding that the state receives.  She doesn’t think the state will take in as much as Connecticut would have to lay out.

Godfrey opposes tolling.  But he acknowledged that the state will need significant funding over the next 30 years to make infrastructure improvements.  He wants to look into moving the car tax from municipalities to the Special Transportation Fund, though he wants to do more research on the proposal.  Godfrey was critical of electric car owners not paying as much into the fund because the revenue in it mostly comes from the gas tax.  He wants to try as much as possible to stay on the principle that users of transportation provided the revenue. 

As for train service, Godfrey says there have been some expensive upgrades in recent years on the Danbury branch while has increased ridership nearly two-fold.  He says unfortunately it’s up to the federal government to restore electricity to the line and to make safety improvements like positive train control technology mandates.  He notes that there is new equipment on the connecting New Haven line, which hasn’t filtered down yet to the branch lines.  He wants to continue to work on punctuality and safety issues.

Domenech hasn’t spoken in detail with people about improving Metro North services, but believes having more reliable and faster service would take more cars off the road.  She supports adding sidewalks to make getting to the train station easier, but questioned whether the state could fund that.

As for improving the DMV, Godfrey says the new computer system was a huge waste of money.  He says it forces customers and employees to waste time, noting that the employees are spending too much time not servicing a people and too much time waiting.  Godfrey wants to look into cleaning up that mess and go back to a better days.  He noted that technology isn't necessarily the answer to everything, trained people are.  Domenech says moving services like getting a handicap permit or a license to a kiosk off-site, that would help.  When she registered a vehicle from out of state, she didn’t have all of the proper documents and suggested having more call centers.

Domenech says there is Off Track Betting in Brewster and doesn’t see why the state shouldn’t move forward with regulating sports betting.  As for taxing it, she says residents already pay so many other taxes Domenech questioned taxing the winnings as it is done at the casinos.  Godfrey noted that Connecticut is going to be surrounded by states that do it so the legislature should put in place some of the basic legal requirements.  He says the challenge is the compact with the Mashantucket Pequots and with the Mohegans leaves an open question on who can actually provide for sports betting. 

Domenech agrees with legalizing recreational marijuana.  She compared it to selling alcohol in the state.  She also supports the medical marijuana program, saying it has helped people transition from opioid medicines to medical marijuana.  On ways to address the opioid epidemic, Godfrey says the state has made some moves in constraining doctors from over-prescribing by only allowing them to prescribe a relatively small amount like a week's worth at a time.  He wants to see more research on alternatives, which Godfrey says his colleagues pushing for legalized recreational marijuana would be interested in.  He notes that Connecticut has decriminalized small amounts of pot and with neighboring states moving toward legalization, it’s something to address.  But Godfrey says they have to wrestle with the cultural, the criminal and the societal views on marijuana.

Domenech wants to focus on tax relief, especially for young people coming out of college and for seniors trying to retire here.  She wants to work on getting more jobs into Connecticut, giving people a reason to stay. 

One of the biggest concerns he has heard consistently over the last 30 years was the lack of affordable housing.  With median prices, Godfrey says people have to make at least $25 an hour to be able to afford a regular two-bedroom rental in Danbury.  He called it concerning that there are 4 to 6 last names listed on two family homes.  He wants to eliminate the conveyance tax on buying and selling a home and create more opportunity for denser housing developments.  Godfrey suggested creating incentives for both developers and for municipalities to build housing that people who work in their towns can afford.

On how to get more education aid from the state to Danbury, Domenech wants to further study the growth rate of Danbury school population and get ahead of the funding situation.  She wants to find ways to fill in the gaps. 

Domenech is not opposed to ghost guns, as long as someone has a federal manufacturing license to do so and the receiver is stamped with a traceable number.

Godfrey says his approach to legislating has changed over the years and is now focused on long-term reforms.  One of his biggest concerns in the last session was helping ALICE households.  Those are Asset Limited, Income Constrained Employed households.  Godfrey wants to implement changes to benefit the middle class and help working families, in line with work that the United Way is doing.  The United Way found that in Connecticut, 10% of the people live in poverty and 30% are struggling.  In Danbury, that total was found to be 50%.  According to the report, a family of four needs to earn $77,832 a year to meet regular expenses.  Godfrey called for raising the minimum wage, incorporating technology training into basic public education and removing barriers to employment.  He also called for making benefits portable, reduce risks for small businesses and making Connecticut more friendly to working families.

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Brian Kilmeade

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