NORWALK, Conn. — Charges and counter charges marked a Monday debate between State Rep. Lucy Dathan (D-142) and her Republican challenger, former State Rep. Fred Wilms.
Wilms is a quitter, Dathan said at the League of Women Voters of New Canaan forum. Dathan has voted to raid the transportation funds, Wilms said.
Dathan took the seat from Wilms two years ago, in a district that has been Republican for decades. The New Canaan event was the first debate for the pair. They meet again Thursday in a League of Women Voters of Norwalk forum.
On Monday, Wilms and Dathan both said they oppose regionalizing schools. They both said Eversource had been held accountable for the power outages due to Tropical Storm Isaias, though Wilms added that the Eversource CEO should have resigned, and Dathan said cable companies should also face consequences.
Wilms accused Dathan of voting with her party 97 percent of the time; Dathan said 90 percent of bills are passed on a bipartisan basis.
“In essence, I voted more times against my own party than with my own party when it came to the differentials,” she said.
Both candidates said they support healthcare, but Dathan accused Wilms of voting for a bill in 2018 that would have taken away coverage for pre-existing conditions and made health insurance more expensive.
“I’ve always supported preexisting conditions. My father was a disabled veteran. And I remember as a boy growing up that he couldn’t get insurance because he was a disabled veteran,” Wilms replied.
Dathan mentioned early that she supports tolls as a user fee for people using Connecticut’s highways.
The special transportation fund has been continually raided, Wilms said. He had worked to get the car sales tax transferred to the transportation fund but “the current administration and my opponent voted to divert those funds away, and back to the general operating fund.”
It’s a myth that the transportation fund has been continually raided, Dathan said. It was only done in 2003 and “I have a chart here that was produced by the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, indicating that I have not voted to raid the fund.”
“The fact is that the current budget did take money that was scheduled to go to the transportation fund,” Wilms said. “And there were increases that were scheduled to go there and they were diverted away.”
Wilms spoke of Connecticut’s fiscal issues, alleging that “state employees get compensation is about 20 or 25 percent greater than what they would earn in the private sector.”
“Fred, I have to question your level of commitment. The day after you lost the election in 2018, you chose to resign your seat on the pension sustainability commission,” Dathan said, calling it an appointed seat not connected to his role as a State Representative. “Connecticut does not need quitters.”
Wilms called that a backhanded compliment.
“I was the only Republican selected to be on that pension sustainability commission,” he said. “After the election where all the Republicans here lost, and we lost our voting capability in Hartford, it turns out that that Commission produced absolutely none of the recommendations that we were working on because the political dynamic had changed.”
He pointed out that she’s been endorsed by the Working Families Party, “which to me is a huge red flag, because they are the creatures of the state employee unions.”
“The Commission was just at the crux of coming up with final solutions when Fred decided to quit,” Dathan said. “And my feeling is we need people who are going to be dedicated to solving the state’s problems, dedicated to having their voices heard, and dedicated to being sure that they are representative of their district.”
The League’s moderator asked what could be done to make Connecticut more business friendly.
Dathan said Moody’s gave Connecticut a favorable rating because there’s $3 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, but without improved transportation infrastructure businesses won’t relocate here.
Wilms countered, “The first thing we need to do is get our state finances in order. companies don’t want to move to a state that has a one to $2 million structural deficit every single year.”
He touted his work on a 2017 “Republican budget, which became the bipartisan budget that did not raise taxes, built up the rainy day fund, that loosely referred to that’s not going to go to $3 billion.”
“The GOP budget, it claims that there’s no increase on tax, but actually there was 1.5 billion in new revenue taxes,” Dathan replied. “It increased property taxes on cars by the elimination of the motor vehicle … mill rate cap, it also increased business taxes, eliminated the angel investor tax credit, which will incentivize new businesses, and it eliminates the tax deduction for utilities. Plus, it was a hard hit on education.”
“The budget that Lucy voted for just last year, raised taxes by $1.7 billion dollars,” Wilms said. “And you know, what really disappointed me was there was really no attempt made by the Governor or by the Democrats in Hartford to try to achieve cost savings or any kind of structural changes, they just went right for the tax increase.”