Candidates face off in the 64th District
KENT — Drawing and keeping people in the state’s northwest corner, tolls and closing the deficit are issues the candidates hope to tackle if elected to the state House 64th District.
Rep. Brian Ohler, 34, a Republican from Canaan, just finished his first term and is facing Democrat Maria Horn, 54, of Salisbury.
The 64th district includes Kent, Canaan, Cornwall, Goshen, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon and Torrington.
Both see creating jobs that offer higher wages as the biggest issue, especially as a way to draw or keep people in the northwest corner, though they differ slightly on how to tackle it.
Ohler said he wants the state to offer incentives to small businesses who hire Connecticut residents and new graduates from the state’s high schools and community colleges.
He said if the manufacturing companies tell students about opportunities and job training, they’ll stay.
Ohler said more emphasis needs to be placed on the state’s vocational training because those jobs pay well.
Streamlining regulations for planning and zoning boards and at the state level to attract businesses will help create these mid-salary range jobs, he said.
Horn said the state needs to make education funding a priority from kindergarten through higher education to allow colleges to be accessible and affordable.
She said it’s important to make sure job training is available at the community colleges and apprenticeships offered to connect students to the community.
Horn said the state should help offset the expenses of small business owners, including health care to allow employers to increase workers’ wages. One option is allowing families to buy back into HUSKY B, she said.
Both candidates come to the race with finance board experience.
Horn has spent years leading nonprofits, which she said rely on partnerships with the government either with policies or funding.
After seeing the state’s budget crisis, she began to doubt that partnership and decided to run. She joined the Salisbury finance board and is now looking to apply some of those same practices at the state level.
Ohler joined the North Canaan finance board after returning from 12 years in the military and discovering others in his generation were leaving “by the busload” for more affordable locations.
During his time on the board, he discovered the problems were at the state level and decided to run for state representative.
Both Ohler and Horn said the state can’t close the projected deficit without growth, though they disagree on whether tolls should be used to increase revenue.
Ohler said it’s obvious tolls would bring revenue into the state, but it would come at the cost of losing federal infrastructure funding and translate to a gain of about $200,000.
He said that money is restricted to the toll roads and the northwest corner, lacking toll roads, wouldn’t see the benefits, yet will probably pay the tolls. He said if the plan only targets trucks, then shipping costs will increase for customers.
Horn opposed a $10 million study, but supports tolls as a set revenue source for much needed road repairs.
“Our physical infrastructure is dragging our economy down,” she said.