BEACON FALLS — In 2010, Republican Len Greene Jr. earned his first term as state representative with a tight, 109-vote victory over then incumbent Democrat Theresa Conroy. Two years later, the race for the 105th House District, which represents Beacon Falls, Seymour, and a part of Derby, is a rematch. Only now, Conroy is the challenger and Greene the incumbent.
Greene, a 32-year-old title searcher from Seymour, said he’s spent the past two years working to control the state budget and spending.
“I don’t believe that has happened over the past two years,” Greene said.
Greene believes Gov. Dannel Malloy’s course for the state isn’t the right one and until that course is changed the state needs people in Hartford to fight for reduced spending.
Conroy, a 55-year-old nurse practitioner and Seymour resident, said she’s running again “because I care about my community.”
Conroy, who currently is a selectman in Seymour, said she’s tired on the political one-sidedness in Hartford. She said everyone needs to start working together and that she can transcend politics in order to work for the benefit of the state and the 105th District.
“I think I’m the best person to get work going down in the Valley,” Conroy said.
By the time the legislature convenes for its next session, the state could be facing a budget deficit.
Recently, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s office projected the state is on track to end fiscal year 2013 with a $27 million deficit. The projected deficit is less than 1 percent of the budget.
“We need to cut spending that’s what it comes down to,” said Greene about what the state should do regarding the budget.
Greene said the state’s revenue stream is not what the Governor and his administration hoped for and the state needs to rationally and responsibly cut spending.
Greene noted he is a strong opponent of tax increases. He said now is the wrong time to put an additional burden on taxpayers and businesses.
Conroy said the state needs to drill down into the budget and make sure there’s no waste.
“I don’t want anymore taxes,” Conroy said.
Conroy said she used to work at the veteran’s hospital and was responsible for a $10 million budget, which had to be cut by 10 percent in 2007. She said she was able to do so while maintaining nurse and safety scores in the 90 percent.
Conroy said the state needs to find new revenue streams and feels the state relies too heavily on casino revenue, especially with neighboring states opening casinos. She said the state needs to be creative and grow its own business niche, like in the bioscience field.
“We need to get the niche for Connecticut,” she said.
As Election Day nears, the state’s unemployment is nearly 9 percent and higher than the national average, according to recent figures.
“We need to get the fiscal situation in Connecticut under control,” Greene said.
Greene said the state’s fiscal situation has been terrible for years. The state has the highest per capita dept in the nation, he said, and $70 billion in unfunded liabilities.
Greene said businesses will not come to the state if the only options that have been put on the table to deal with the fiscal situation are taxes and increasing spending.
Greene said he is proud of the initiatives put into effect for small businesses by the jobs bills passed during the last session. But, he said, under the current financial direction of the state small businesses can’t recover from the recession.
Conroy said the 105th District is positioned well for transit development with the rail line running through it.
“We’re positioned beautifully,” she said.
During her term as state representative, Conroy said she worked on getting a roadway built near the Stop & Shop in Seymour to open land near the river for development, but a study of the project fell by the wayside. She said state department heads need to be pressed to make sure projects in the Valley are being seen through.
Conroy added that state must also do more to ensure there is an educated workforce for the jobs available or businesses will just go elsewhere.
“We need to make sure that we have the next generation of employees,” she said.
Aside from economic issues, Greene said gas and energy prices are vital issues facing the state.
Most people on fixed incomes can’t afford to fill up their cars or heat their homes, Greene said, and there are areas where the legislature can impact those prices.
Greene, who co-sponsored a bill during the last session to cap the gross receipts tax on fuel at $3 a galloon, said he wants to work to lower that cap to $2.50.
Prior to the cap, the tax fluctuated with the price of gas and the tax is levied on top of the state’s excise tax, Greene said.
“The fact is we tax the heck out of people,” Greene said.
By lowering the cap, Greene said, it will help to bring down the cost of gas, which will have an indirect effect on the price of everything that shipped. He added it would also help to make the state is more competitive when it comes to gas prices so truck drivers do not pass through without filling up.
For Conroy, the new federal health care laws that will go into effect in 2014 are an issue high on her list.
“As a health care provider, I think they’re great,” Conroy said.
Conroy said the state needs to make sure it is in position for the new laws. She said Connecticut is going to need more primary care physicians and should invest in schools to ensure the state has those physicians to handle the need.
“We need to make sure we have the providers available,” Conroy said.
Conroy added she also wants to advocate for veteran services and doesn’t want to see veterans return home and not get the help they need.
On a local level, Greene said the most important issue facing the 105th District is jobs.
“Everyone that I talked to is concerned about jobs,” Greene said.
The Valley is a hard-working, blue collar region, he said.
“People aren’t used to not working,” Greene said.
The state needs to change its unfriendly approach to business, Greene said, as residents are unemployed or underemployed.
For Conroy economic development is an issue that needs to be addressed within the district. She pointed to the Housatonic Wire Co. in Seymour, which burned down two years ago, and is still sitting as a blighted property. She said she would work with the Department of Economic and Community Development to help find developers interested in the site and similar sites throughout the Valley.
“I think of the Valley as a small city,” Conory said.
She said Valley legislators need to work together to bring money and attention to the area.
“I’d like to be a catalyst to getting everyone working together,” she said.
Conroy said she will bring a fighter’s mentality to the legislature.
“What I tell people is I’m a fighter. I know how to research issues. I will work hard,” Conroy said.
Greene said he brings common sense principles to the legislature. Over the past two years, Greene said he has been responsive to his constituents and made a point to personally respond to people as much as possible.
“The only way I understand what needs to be done … is by talking and listening to my constituents,” Greene said.