Democratic incumbent Ken Gucker is seeking another term representing the 138th House District. He is being challenged by Republican Rachel Chaleski, the Danbury Board of Education chairwoman. She was working in corporate finance and then a stay at home mom.
Gucker says there was a lot accomplished in the last session, including making the social security tax free for seniors.
As for affordability of everyday living, Chaleski says Connecticut is the second highest taxed state in the country, behind New York. She thinks more can be done at the state level to alleviate that burden especially when it comes to food tax, car property tax and gas tax. Chaleski called for real, sustained change.
Gucker touted a bill approved last session to improve the water quality of Candlewood Lake. The measure has raised over $440,000 so far through a user fee on boat registration. The $5 per year for residents, $20 for out-of-state residents, helps to combat invasive species issues. It was expanded to cover rivers and other water sources. He notes that Candlewood Lake's zebra mussel issue actually comes from the Housatonic River.
When it comes to environmental issues, Chaleski says Candlewood Lake is an asset that should be protected. She has a degree in biology and wants to see the water quality protected.
During her time on the Board, Chaleski got a firsthand look at the state Education Cost Sharing formula and the state budget process. She says for a long time municipalities received block grants, so it was static funding, despite the fact the Danbury's student population grows by 1 to 2 percent every year. While she says the state has made some progress toward a more fair funding system, it's a phased in approach over the course of 10 years, something she says doesn't make sense from a business standpoint.
Gucker says he heard there was an agreement in place before he joined the legislature to steadily increase the Education Cost Sharing formula allocation for Danbury, but when Governor Lamont took office he froze ECS and put the state on a debt diet. He says Danbury has been underfunded in the past and while there have been increases, it's not enough. He touted the delegation's effort to secure 80% reimbursement on eligible costs for the proposed Career Academy.
Chaleski supports the state-funded public Charter school trying to become established in the City.
Gucker says the public school district would lose out on $10.34 million, not including any cost the Board of Education would have to pick up. He is concerned that the current year's budget was filled with a lot of one time funding through APRA and other pandemic-era bills.
As for public safety, Gucker says the issue of catalytic converter theft was addressed with a recent bill, which needs time to take effect. But he says it's not juveniles committing these offenses, it's crime syndicates. Gucker works in the automotive industry and was critical of illegal chopshops. Gucker wants to take further action on gun safety, especially in terms of domestic situations.
Chaleski says public safety would be a priority if elected. She called the Police Accountability Bill a rushed process. While she sees some good aspects, there are provisions that make the job more dangerous, more difficult and less appealing. She supports Connecticut's gun laws as they are and would support closing loopholes by keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
While Connecticut is one of only four states without early voting, Chaleski says there should be some restrictions around the concept if its to be enacted here. Gucker supports the ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to allow for early voting. Gucker says whatever makes voting more accessible, should be done. If Connecticut's fiscal house remains in order, he'd support continuation of the 25-cent gas tax holiday.