The Brookfield Republican Town Committee has hosted a debate with four of those seeking the party nomination for Governor. They answered questions Sunday about tolls, immigration and education among other topics. They discussed education reforms. West Hartford former Councilman Joe Visconti says it's time teachers teach and parents get involved. He coined the term education cartel because of the mandates coming down on schools. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says he is concerned with Common Core and teacher evaluations. He says the measurement of learning is not always a standardized test. He is calling for teaching to be about building the whole person.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney says one size fits all mandates don't work. He called the delay of Common Core implementation an election year political maneuver by Governor Malloy. Instead, he says teachers and parents should be consulted on how to improve education standards.
State Senator Toni Boucher says the state should focus on schools that are failing and let successful schools make their own decisions. She says a 7-hour school day should be considered along with moving to a 200 day school year. She is also calling for the state to double down on literacy.
When it comes to the laws enacted after the Newtown tragedy, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said he would have focused more on mental health and less on guns.
West Hartford former Councilman Joe Visconti called the law was a knee jerk reaction. But Senate Minority leader John McKinney, whose district includes Newtown, says he doesn’t regret the bill. He also noted that he and others stopped proposals like confiscating guns, annual registration and gun sale limits.
State Senator Toni Boucher, who is still in the exploratory phase, says she championed the school security portion of the law.
They were also asked about was Freedom of Information versus the Public Right to Know. State Senator Toni Boucher says there was good rationale to keep photos from Newtown private. She says they didn't want to add to the pain of families already suffering, though she would be reluctant to expand the exemptions further. Senate Minority Leader John McKinney says 911 tapes should not be exempt from FOIA laws. He does however keeping private photos of minors who are killed, unless there is a need for public safety or the States Attorney's office to prosecute the crime. West Hartford former Councilman Joe Visconti agreed with previous speakers. He says a moratorium for a number of years may be would have worked just as well for other exemptions now in place.
Tax reform and making Connecticut a more friendly place to do business were also on the agenda for the debate. Visconti said he wants to phase out the sales tax on products. But he said that can't be done quicker than raises in the business tax and income tax.
McKinney says he wants to make Connecticut a more welcome place. He wants to see the business entity tax eliminated, the estate tax eliminated and the tax on pensions. He notes that Connecticut is the only state that taxes pensions and that is driving people out of the state.
Boucher says Governor Malloy is spending too much. She called the surplus fictitious and the proposed $55 rebate from Malloy a ploy to buy votes. Boucher says she instead would like to implement tax reform.
Boughton says he would lower the gas tax, eliminate the business entity tax and enact a homestead property tax exemption. He would model it off a law in Florida in an effort to keep seniors here and have them age in place.
As for rail service, McKinney says the infrastructure needs better maintenance. Visconti says negotiations need to take place between the governors of Connecticut and New York and with Metro North. Boucher says there is gross mismanagement of the railroad and is calling for federal intervention to bring in expertise, and possibly take over the rail line until it can manage its own affairs.
Boughton says there are vision and planning problems, but there is a template that can be followed for change. He cited the example of the pressure brought down on CL&P after the week long outages following Tropical Storm Irene, that October snow and Superstorm Sandy. He said they wouldn't dare have a light bulb go out any more.
The candidates took on the issue of border tolls and road infrastructure. Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said the lawmakers who support border tolls live inland. He also says more than $550 million has been wasted on a useless busway to nowhere. McKinney said if he can stop the 9-mile busway from New Britain to Hartford, he will do anything he can to do so.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton also criticized the busway. He says not one subsidized bus will run along that stretch of road. He emphasized that if the bus can't pay for itself, they won't run.
Wilton Senator Toni Boucher says the special transportation fund should be for transportation projects. She says border tolls are not equitable and called it just another tax that residents don't need. Boucher called for fixing rail infrastructure, noting that when trains fail the highways become parking lots.
West Hartford former Councilman Joe Visconti says he doesn't support bringing tolls back. He says a rail line to Springfield, Massachusetts needs to be investigated. Visconti also called for a review of all alternate transportation options.
The candidates were asked about the future of marijuana laws in the state. Visconti says he is concerned with second hand smoke and says the safety implications on industries like construction need to be studied. McKinney says he opposed both decriminalization and medical marijuana because it's still a federal offense to be in possession of pot. Boucher has been a staunch opponent of loosening marijuana laws, filibustering for nearly five hours on the medical marijuana bill.
Boughton says he's concerned about the impact of marijuana as a gateway drug, but called Colorado's legalization an interesting experiment.
State police staffing levels and consolidation of Troopers regionally were among the questions fielded. Boughton said that listening to police needs and proactive policing is essential. Boucher says one of the most important jobs of government is to provide public safety. McKinney says he is in favor of limited government, but public safety is an essential role of government.
Visconti said he doesn't support more resources for police if they take further steps to keep track of guns and confiscation of guns. He also said he differs from Governor Malloy on protection. If elected, Visconti said he will take care of himself, a reference to the fact that he is licensed to carry a gun.
2010 nominee Tom Foley and Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti were also invited, but didn’t attend.