17th district candidates spar over issues

NAUGATUCK — The only thing remotely close between 17th-district opponents Joseph Crisco and Tamath Rossi at Tuesday night’s Candidates’ Forum were the chairs they were sitting in.

From left, Rep. David Labriola (R-Naugatuck), Joseph Crisco (D-Woodbridge) and Naugatuck Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi at Tuesday's candidates' forum sponsored by the Naugatuck Taxpayers in Revolt.

Crisco, the incumbent state senator in the 17th District, and Deputy Mayor Rossi, the Republican challenger, disagreed on nearly every issue discussed at the forum.

The two candidates sat side by side, often giving their answers one after the other. Their close proximity did not compel similar responses.

The major state-wide issues discussed were binding arbitration, term limits, unfunded mandates, manufacturing and fiscal issues.

Binding arbitration

Rossi feels binding arbitration has had a deep and devastating effect on local municipalities.
“It has tied our hands as local representatives as being able to achieve reasonable settlements,” Rossi said. “I don’t think that it has worked. I’d like to see a two-year moratorium put on it so it can be reviewed.”

Crisco declared his support for binding arbitration, saying that if you have the right people in office there’s no reason things should not get done correctly.

“If you have people who come to the table and arbitrate in good faith, you should be able to come to a resolution,” Crisco said. “It’s easy to say that it hasn’t worked, but I think if you look historically at the district and the state it helps the workers of the state.”

Term Limits

Crisco does not oppose the current term limits. The senator of 18 years said he places a lot of value in experience.
“As far as I’m concerned, we have a two-year return limit,” Crisco said. “If you’re not doing your job, if you’re not representing your district, then the people will not return you to office.”

Rossi advocates a 12-year term limit for local, state and federal positions. She feels this period would be a good amount of time to for officials to get acclimated and be strong advocates for constituent voters.

“As long as you have fresh ideas coming to the table and around the table, you can continue to move forward,” Rossi said. “I believe very strongly in 12-year term limits.”

Unfunded Mandates

Rossi declared herself as a staunch opponent of unfunded state mandates, saying such measures have crippled Naugatuck and other municipalities.

“Part of the feeling is people think that we’re doing something; we’re being efficient up in Hartford,” Rossi said. “There’s no thought given to this decision-making to mandate something. In essence, it then cripples the municipality and passes on to the taxpayer.”

Crisco defended the state, saying sometimes the state finds itself with its hands tied when it comes to mandates.

“Sometimes the state doesn’t have a choice in implementing unfunded mandates because there is a federal mandate put on the state to implement laws,” Crisco said.

Manufacturing

Crisco said the manufacturing industry’s exodus from Connecticut is not a state problem, but rather a national problem

“Manufacturing has left the country because of the prices in China and other places,” Crisco said. “Technology has changed, but we should do anything we can to get manufacturing back.”
Rossi strongly disagreed with Crisco, saying the state has lost manufacturing to other states, not other countries. She referenced the Hershey Company, which decided to leave Naugatuck for another state.

“We are business-unfriendly in this state,” Rossi said. “We’re not doing enough. People aren’t leaving the country, they’re leaving the state.”

Fiscal issues

Rossi touched on public education, public safety, public health and public transportation as focus points in a debate over fiscal responsibility.

“Taxes are too high and spending is out of control; we need to start to have legislators that we can have accountable for job losses and devastating taxes,” Rossi said.

Crisco acknowledged his part in bringing a spending cap to Connecticut years ago, and harped on what he perceived as successes in 2010.

“We were very fortunate in 2010 to develop a surplus that saved us $120 million,” Crisco said. “We have to balance the budget.We have to look at everything, put everything on the table, and you can’t spend more than you have.”