Candidates in the race for state representative from the 67th District came together Tuesday to debate the issues.

And debate they did. On topics ranging from tax reform to job creation, Democratic candidate Andy Grossman and Republican Cecilia Buck-Taylor often butted heads, while Green Party candidate Nicholas Payne sometimes set a different course.

The debate, the only one of the campaign for candidates hoping to fill the shoes of Clark Chapin, was hosted at New Milford Public Library by the Litchfield Hills' League of Women Voters.

About 80 residents and many town officials, were on hand.

Mr. Chapin is giving up his role as Republican state representative after 12 years to pursue his bid for a state senate seat from the 30th District.

A wide variety of topics were broached Tuesday during the lively one-hour session, but state budgeting and taxes were never far from the conversation.

"I agree with a lot of what Mrs. Buck-Taylor says about runaway spending in Hartford," Mr. Grossman said. "Drastic steps have to be taken. We're facing a ticking time bomb."

Yet he bristled at Ms. Buck-Taylor's assertion state tax breaks now given to attract business is a failed program -- the kind of wasteful government spending she would work to stop.

"A $291 million tax break was given to Jackson Lab -- a company that failed in Florida and has not produced the jobs promised here," Ms. Buck-Taylor said.

Mr. Grossman countered that Jackson Lab is a "bio-science magnet that will attract more bio-science business to the state." Its "ripple effect" is the kind of economic development, if he were to be elected, he would work to create in Connecticut.

The candidates agree the state budget deficit must be cut.

"I want to take New Milford to Hartford," Ms. Buck-Taylor said, "to bring the kind of A-plus review to finances there that New Milford was recently given by a Webster Bank executive for its fiscal management. I'm part of that in my role on the Town Council."

Mr. Grossman said raising taxes is not the answer.

"We're already taxed to the limit," he said. "The answer is through cuts in spending and the best way to make that cut is through cuts in health care" reached by initiating better health care programs, he said.

"Someone has to pay the taxes," Mr. Payne offered. "Someone has to feed the state.

"The only way to reduce taxes is to reduce government spending and that can best be done by reaching efficiency in health care," he added. "The Green Party advocates streamlining the whole health care delivery system.

New Milford voters will make the call Nov. 6 on which of the candidates will head to Hartford. For more election coverage, see pages S4 and S6-10.

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322