Hopefuls air views on state economy




LITCHFIELD – Three local candidates seeking state office accepted the Economic Development Commission’s invitation to present their ideas for improving the state’s economy on Wednesday night.

The 66th House District candidates David T. Wilson and Gayle Carr, both of Litchfield, and 76th House District challenger Myrna Watanabe of Harwinton each were given a chance to explain what the legislature could do to make the economy better.

Carr, a Democrat and an attorney, said her skills as a negotiator and advocate would help her get things done in Hartford. Providing a good education and job training for young people, and retaining them as residents are vital to improving the state economy, said Carr, a member of the Litchfield Board of Education.

Taking a long look at the way the state spends tax revenue must be a priority of the legislature, she added.

“I’m concerned about spending in Hartford and I’d work to address it,” Carr said. “We should look at what we’re spending, and find out what’s working and what’s not. Then we could engage in smarter spending.”

Wilson, a Republican and Litchfield’s town treasurer for 29 years, cited unfunded mandates, an increase in the minimum wage and paid family leave as detriments to the small businesses that form the backbone of the state economy.

Licensing fees charged to businesses, especially startups, also are a drag on the economy, Wilson added.

“We’re not going to see improvement until the state changes the way it does business,” he said.

Locally, Wilson said job growth is unlikely because of state regulations on small businesses and zoning regulations that restrict commercial development. He cited the new Stop & Shop project as an example of overzealous local regulation.

“It took six years from start to finish to get that project approved,” Wilson said of the Stop & Shop being built in Village Green. “It cost the developer an extra $2 million and the town lost out on $400,000 in property taxes it could have realized had the project been completed earlier.”

Watanabe, a Democrat facing state Rep. John Piscopo, R-Thomaston, cited the state’s declining population and real estate values as issues that have to be addressed. She suggested school regionalization and shared municipal services as ways to create savings.

Piscopo was unable to participate in the forum.

Contact John McKenna at jmckenna33@optonline.net.