WALLINGFORD — Democrats and Republicans agreed on the need to protect the environment and address substance abuse, but largely disagreed on tolls and recreational marijuana during a recent candidate forum.
Nine of the candidates running for the four House and one Senate districts that cover Wallingford attended the event Wednesday at Town Hall organized by the Wallingford Community Women.
House candidates included Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, and Republican Dan Crouch in the 85th House District; Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, and Democrat Daniel Fontaine in the 90th District; and Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, and Republican Diane Pagano in the 103rd District.
Democrat Vincent Mase, Sr., read a statement on his campaign in the 86th District, but opponents – Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford and the Green Party’s Colin Souney were not in attendance. Candelora’s written statement was read by organizers.
Candidates answered questions from a panel consisting of Record-Journal reporter Lauren Takores, Sheehan High School student Gretchen Seibt, and New Haven Register reporter Luther Turmelle.
Republicans voiced their opposition to tolls, saying the state needs to be more efficient with revenue already going into the Special Transportation Fund.
“We have enough money for transportation, we have to look at how we're wasting the money,” Crouch said. Republicans also voiced support for a constitutional amendment creating a “lock box” on the fund, but said they are opposed to the wording of the amendment included on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Fontaine said he also opposes tolls. Mushinsky and Linehan said they would support a toll proposal that is fair to in-state residents, and both said they support the lockbox amendment.
“We have two non-partisan commissions who have both said the transportation fund will run a deficit... it's not realistic to say we're going to do nothing and the roads and bridges will be maintained, we'll have to pick something,” Mushinsky said. “Either higher gas taxes or tolls.”
Linehan said she supports the legalization of recreational marijuana, but doesn’t want it sold to anyone under 25. Mushinsky said she does not support recreational legalization at this time, but if it looked like legalization were to happen, she said she would want to see an age restriction to avoid impacting brain development.
Fishbein and Pagano both said they oppose legalization because of concerns including the lack of an intoxication test for drivers that doesn’t rely on blood.
“We don't want somebody (police officers) just drawing blood on the side of the road,” Pagano said. “I need more information before I could say ‘yes’ to recreational marijuana.”
Mushinsky and Pagano said they were open to legalizing sports betting, while Fishbein and Fontaine said they are unsure. Crouch is against the idea, but Linehan said the state needs the revenue.
“I don't think we're in any position, number one, to cut off any possible funding source and secondly, people do it anyways, let's give them a nice safe place,” Linehan said.
Crouch and Fishbein said they are against raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, while Fontaine supports the idea. Mushinsky and Linehan expressed support for raising the wage a few dollars at a time.
“I think if you're doing any kind of work which is socially beneficial and you're working hard at it, you're working full time, you should be able to pay for your basic expenses,” Fontaine said.
The candidates agreed on the need to protect the environment, address substance abuse, make college education more affordable and provide more options for students, such as vocational training.
34th Senate District
Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and Democrat Aili McKeen of Wallingford disagreed on tolls, taxes, and marijuana.
Fasano said he doesn’t think Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski’s plan to eliminate the state income tax in eight years is feasible, but he admires the vision.
“I think Bob Stefanowski is someone who aspires to reduce or eliminate the income tax. I think that's a noble vision to have for the state, because that will increase business in the state,” Fasano said.
McKeen believes the income tax should not be eliminated.
“I think that the income tax, as a progressive tax, is our most fair tax, and I'd rather see us restructure our income tax and rely on it more and rely less on regressive taxes like the property taxes and sales tax,” McKeen said.
McKeen also said tolls would be a progressive way to generate revenue for transportation projects. She would want discounts for in-state residents, similar to what Massachusetts offers.
Fasano is opposed to tolls. He touted the GOP plan to prioritize transportation projects paid for via bonding. McKeen said she does not like the idea of using bonds as Fasano proposed.
McKeen is in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana and said she would restrict it similar to alcohol and tobacco. Fasano said legalizing recreational marijuana is a “money grab” that would be selling out our society to build revenue.