WESTPORT, Conn. – State representative candidates Brandi Briggs and Jonathan Steinberg addressed topics such as taxes and transportation funding at a recent debate in Westport.
Incumbent Democrat Steinberg is facing Republican challenger Briggs in the race for the state House of Representatives seat for District 36, which covers Westport. The two met at a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters of Westport.
“We have the highest corporate tax rates of any state. Right now we’re saying to businesses, don’t come here, we don’t really want you here, we’re going to tax you to death,” Briggs said, citing polls that also said that 49 percent of residents would leave the state if they could.
Steinberg said the polls were not accurate and that the state has made progress in bringing businesses and jobs back to Connecticut.
“We’ve made significant investments in certain industry clusters where we can get a competitive advantage in the state of Connecticut,” Steinberg said. He pointed to industries such as bioscience where the state is becoming a leader.
“I want to point out the success of the Small Business Express Program, which has brought thousands of jobs, including helping companies here in Westport.”
Briggs criticized Steinberg for not doing anything to help keep Bridgewater from moving from Westport to Stamford, a move that ultimately did not happen. Steinberg said he was angry about the move, and that Gov. Dannel Malloy did not consult with the town or the legislators about the decision.
Both agreed that transportation infrastructure needed to be invested in to help the state’s economy.
“If we don’t make an investment in our rails and our crumbling highways and our deteriorating bridges, it’s game over for the state of Connecticut, so that must be the highest priority,” Steinberg said.
“You were on the transportation committee and yet you voted for budgets that took money out of the transportation fund, and that’s something you said we should protect,” Briggs said. “Yet in the last two budgets over $120 million was taken out of the special transportation fund.”
Steinberg said he has always fought for transportation and that in some years money has been taken out and in others it has been added to the fund. He said that in the past four years Malloy has started to invest in transportation, which has been neglected.
Briggs said the state has too many taxes and that some need to be reduced or eliminated to keep people from leaving the state.
“We have 371 total taxes, 200 only generate $22 million. We need to get rid of those; it’s costing us more to collect those taxes than we are earning from it,” she said. “Over the course of time my suggestions would be to get rid of the inheritance tax and the gift tax, do some things that the pensions, the taxes on senior pensions, the conveyance tax, especially the state portion, and eventually we need to reduce the income tax.”
Steinberg said that programs the state has put in place need to be given time to grow and have their results measured.
“When we’re facing a $1.4 billion deficit going forward, unless you’re talking about incredibly draconian cuts across the board, cutting all those taxes is going to cause a bigger problem, not a smaller problem.”
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