21st Senatorial District Race: What’s the most important issue Connecticut faces

Christopher Green, left, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Republican, Kevin Kelly, right, for the 21st Senatorial District seat this November.

State Sen. Kevin Kelly, a Republican, is a longtime incumbent seeking another term heading the 21st District, which includes the towns Monroe, Seymour, Shelton and Stratford. He is being challenged by Democrat, Christopher Green, a businessman and educator from Stratford.

The Sun sent questions to both candidates on issues Connecticut is facing and may face in the future to learn where they stand on the issues. Each question and the answers will be featured in an ongoing series leading up to Election Day on Nov. 8.

What do you believe to be the most important issue Connecticut is facing and why? What do you think the governor and legislature should do about it?

The most pressing issue facing Connecticut families is affordability and opportunity. Connecticut’s economy and its policies are not delivering for working and middle class families. We are facing 40 year high inflation in a state where residents are overtaxed and income growth is not keeping up with the cost of living.

Every working- and middle-class family is experiencing tough times and trying to figure out how to balance their household budgets and meet the needs of their loved ones as prices skyrocket on everything from food to heating oil to health care.

Connecticut must do better. I’ve put forward a package of legislative proposals that show a better way forward. We must make Connecticut more affordable, make healthcare more affordable, and create opportunity and jobs.

These include proposals to cut taxes by over $1.2 billion including a permanent cut to the income tax on wages, social security and pension, a plan to reduce families’ health insurance premiums by over $6,400 per year on average, and policies to better support our workforce with pathways to careers and job growth. You can read all these policies at www.BetterWayCT.com.

Green: Affordability is the most important issue facing our families and it should be a priority for our governor and legislators. We have to address the exorbitant price of healthcare, education and housing and to continue to work on lowering taxes especially for middle class families, workers and retirees.

A key part of this year’s budget were timely tax cuts to help families with children and retirees as well as a gas tax holiday. The immediate tax cuts were balanced with a sensible and timely prioritization of early childhood education, mental health and paying down our state’s pension debt. This last one to me is key to a long-term plan to control costs and pave the way towards tax cuts that can last.

My opponent voted against this budget wanting more tax cuts now funded by more debt later. That’s not a real tax cut. It shows a lack of long-term vision.

On healthcare, I recently published an op-ed on the topic. The core of that piece is legislators need to hold drug companies, insurance companies and hospitals accountable for unreasonable prices. We should work to push for transparency in pricing and emphasize preventative, proactive care.

We should also push for more insurance options. My opponent opposed a public option which would have helped small businesses and nonprofits with costs associated with the limited options available to them on the Connecticut health exchange. He also voted against a bill that forced manufacturers of generics to share samples of their drug with anyone else who wanted to create them.

Housing is not affordable because we don’t have enough of it. We need to find ways to allow for responsible development that don’t involve paving wetlands or putting large complexes in areas without adequate traffic studies or parking.

We should give homeowners greater control over their properties — allowing them broader discretion in creating accessory dwelling units or smaller multifamilies. We should also restrict large out-of-state conglomerates from amassing swaths of family homes.

For education, we need to boost the visibility and availability of vocational and manufacturing training, STEM programs and mid-career job training. We need to give workers affordable ways to better themselves.

I was glad to see part of this year’s budget, which my opponent voted against, was an expansion of no-cost community college in Connecticut. The program provides an affordable pathway for K-14 public education and does so in a way that is supported more by federal dollars than local ones.

Editor’s Note: Green answered another question and combined it with his reply to the question on the most important issue facing Connecticut. Kelly answers the question on affordability below:

Is there anything the state can do to give residents relief from rising inflation? How can Connecticut be a more affordable place to live?

Kelly: Connecticut must do more to provide relief to families, from cutting taxes to growing good paying jobs to making health care more affordable. It is our responsibility to ease the pain and support our families. While our families are struggling with historic inflation, the state’s budget is benefiting from inflation driving up sales tax and gas tax revenue. These tax dollars must be returned to our families to help them through these difficult times. That’s why I put forward a plan to cut taxes by over $1.2 billion, including permanently reducing the income tax for working and middle-class families. Connecticut could have delivered historic tax relief and still contributed nearly $6 billion to our state’s unfunded pension debt and liabilities – that’s how much surplus our state collected from taxpayers. We could have passed this tax relief and still contributed a historic amount in additional payments to ease state debt, resulting in future savings of up to $400 million annually.

We also must make healthcare more affordable and provide vital assistance and relief. I’ve proposed a plan to reduce families’ health insurance premiums by over $6,400 per year on average (https://ctsenaterepublicans.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Affordable-Health-Care-2022.pdf).

I’ve also strongly advocated for the state to bolster energy assistance that was slashed by Washington (https://ctsenaterepublicans.com/2022/08/ct-senate-house-republicans-offer-amendment-to-bolster-energy-assistance-slashed-by-washington/). Devastating cuts to our state’s home heating oil assistance program are going to create a home heating crisis this winter for seniors and families. The majority has blocked efforts to restore this assistance. I continue to fight to help our most vulnerable and middle class heat their homes as oil prices surge.

Finally, we need to grow good paying jobs so that families can afford to live here and support the needs of their loved ones.

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