The 2nd District state Representative race is a rematch of the 2016 contest. Democrat Raghib Allie-Brennan is challenging Republican Will Duff for the seat, which Allie-Brennan lost by 280 votes. The district includes parts of Bethel, Redding and Newtown.
Duff says there were a number of successes in the last year. He touted the elimination of the tax on social security and pensions. It will be phased out over the next 4 years. He also touted modifications to the 8-30g affordable housing statutes to combat the problem of affordable housing regulations and predatory developers putting up big developments. He also touted stopping cuts in school and municipal aid.
Since 2016, Allie-Brennan has become more involved in community, as vice president of a board that focuses on of the opioid epidemic in the Danbury area, serving on the League of Conservation Voters and on the Triangle Community Center which helps with the LGBT community in Fairfield County. Allie-Brennan works for a company that helps small businesses get grants loans from the state. He says that has put him in a position to see how the state isn’t working for small business and where improvements can be made. He says DECD had a good program to allow businesses access to capital, but there is some red tape. He believes the state should be giving more tax breaks to small businesses than to big corporations.
Duff opposes tolling. As for the Transportation Funding Lockbox on the November ballot, he encouraged people to vote for it. But he says there was no definition for the lockbox so he’s not sure how effective it will be. Duff compared this to the 20 year battle to get a constitutional spending cap defined and put in place. Duff called the lockbox a marketing scheme and nothing but flashy words. He called the bill meaningless.
Allie-Brennan is opposed to tolls. He hasn’t seen a plan for implementation and wouldn’t want to burden people who commute from the district to elsewhere. Metro North improvements are something that Allie-Brennan would like to see accomplished. He questioned why the trains are often replaced by buses, why the trip takes so long and why there’s limited weekend service. He would like to see more transit-oriented development, but trains have to run in order for it to be effective. He doesn’t want to see rail or bus fare hikes to pay for improvements, focusing instead on fixing inefficiencies. One part of the budget he’d like reexamined is the $1.3 billion spent on corrections and prisons. Allie-Brennan says that’s more than what Connecticut spends on education and with crime and prison population down, the spending should be realigned.
As for improving rail service, Duff says the legislature only treats Fairfield County as an ATM and puts no money into the region. He notes that the Danbury area generates a tremendous amount of revenue for Hartford and gets very little back.
Duff says every child has an equal right to education. He notes that when there are cuts, they go to the lunch programs, ESL, special needs transportation and other services. Duff says the students who need programs the most are deemed as low-hanging fruit. He wants the funding formula simplified. If distressed districts need more help, that should be a separate pool of money. He notes that Hartford doesn’t have a lot of taxable property because it’s state owned, and does need more money. But he says the formula has become a political poker chip.
Allie-Brennan says the Education Cost Sharing formula is broken and needs fixing. He says the state cherry-picking funds from a town because they seem wealthy and giving them to another one that needs them punishes towns that are good stewards of local budgets. He acknowledged that Danbury, which is a small part of the district, doesn’t get full funding and needs more assistance.
When it comes to legalizing recreational marijuana, Duff says that’s just giving the go ahead to say that drug use is ok. He is concerned that waxes and oils have synthesized the narcotic out of the organic material. He wants the FDA to take charge on the marijuana issue and says it’s a federal issue. Duff is not inclined to look at new revenue sources and would be apprehensive about bringing sports betting to Connecticut. He wants to see a bill about where it’s being run; if it will be done in bodegas or OTB-style terminals. Duff says Connecticut took in more money last year than ever before, but is still in deficit. He says there’s a spending problem and not a revenue problem. Duff was critical of state bonding priorities, questioning millions of dollars for Aer Lingus, and money to pay for a splashpad.
As for whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana, Allie-Brennan wants to have the conversation. While Connecticut, needs the revenue, he doesn’t believe this will be the silver bullet. He can see the positives of taxing it and regulating it. On the other hand, Allie-Brennan wants any regulations to also take police into consideration. He wants them to feel comfortable when they pull people over that they are covered. Allie-Brennan suggests looking at Colorado and Massachusetts as Connecticut moves forward. Allie-Brennan would also support Sports Betting, noting again that it's not the silver bullet to the budget crisis, but a way to stop taking money from Social Services programs.
As a way to improve wait times at the DMV, Duff proposed having a renewal of a license for every five years instead of every four years and then 20% of the line will shrink. He doesn’t think the impasse with AAA is insurmountable and could renegotiate to have the outside source provide licensing services again. Allie-Brennan wants to put more DMV services online to help cut down wait times at the DMV.
If reelected, Duff wants to help towns lower property taxes by funding state mandates. He says that would free up money from local budgets.
Duff also wants to look into making higher education more affordable. He wants to look at changing or altering some programs to better align teaching with the open jobs. Duff says investing in the teaching staff and not growing the bureaucracy the administrative class saying they tend to get in the way of professors and teaching staff. Duff says having autonomy will keep the uniqueness of each state school. By getting rid of the Board of Regents for higher Education, the four regional colleges and the community colleges would still have to follow the laws and policies dictated by the state. But he says the Board is more cumbersome than anything else. Duff says it’s spent millions of dollars and created more obstacles. He wants to divert funding back to the schools.
On the opioid epidemic, Allie-Brennan says insurance should cover people who want to get help. He also wants to look at criminal justice reform to make sure people that are addicted and incarcerated can get treatment, so they are not put back on the street and into the same vicious cycle.
If elected, Allie-Brennan wants to be part of the energy committee. He took a course on natural disasters in his senior year and focused on Hurricane Katrina and how to improve response. Allie-Brennan also worked on energy policy in Washington, D.C. and would like to find ways to lower energy rates and invest more in green energy.