A veteran representative and a newcomer to state politics are vying for the chance to represent the state’s 89th House District.
Republican state Rep. Lezlye Zupkus is seeking her fourth consecutive term representing the district, which covers Prospect, Bethany and a part of Cheshire, and is facing a challenge from Democrat Anne Harrigan.
Zupkus, a 52-year-old Prospect resident, said, if re-elected, her priorities will be “getting the state’s financial house in order.”
Zupkus said one of the biggest hurdles is the state’s high taxes.
“People are overtaxed to death. They have had it. During the last 38 of 40 years the legislature has been in the Democrats’ control. During that time we have had two of the largest tax increases in the history of the state,” said Zupkus, who is the state director for Best Buddies Connecticut.
Zupkus added the state is facing a deficit despite increasing taxes. She said state has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. She pointed to the $40 million for renovations to Hartford’s XL Center and the approximately $530 million bond to bail out Hartford as items she opposed as unnecessary spending.
Harrigan, a 57-year-old Cheshire resident, believes the state is spending its money in the wrong places.
“We need to be proactive rather than reactive. We need to set spending priorities for the future and invest in those priorities rather than spending reactively when crises arise,” said Harrigan, who is a member of the Cheshire Board of Education.
Harrigan said some of those priorities include promoting growth of small and medium businesses, and investing in transportation, infrastructure and education.
Harrigan agrees with her opponent that something has to be done about the taxes in the state, but said she wants a tax reform program.
“The wealthy disproportionality pay lower tax rates than middle and lower income working people. That shouldn’t be the case. There has to be a way to reform that,” Harrigan said.
Zupkus said the state needs to become a place where businesses and residents want to stay.
“We have a beautiful state. We have to keep our kids from leaving and let businesses do business and create jobs,” Zupkus said.
She said the state needs to be able to walk the line between regulating businesses and letting them have free reign.
“They need regulations, but we over regulate. We are putting more and more onerous regulations on businesses,” said Zupkus, pointing to a nationwide movement to raise the minimum wage to $15.
If the state hinders businesses from creating jobs, Zupkus said students who move away for college will never come back.
“My daughter just went to college. What is she going to come back to do,” Zupkus said. “The young people are not going to come back and pay for everything. We have to create jobs and have an affordable state.”
Harrigan, who works as an adjunct professor and an advising support consultant for the college of arts and sciences at Quinnipiac University, said she wants to ensure the state invests in its residents and communities, especially when it comes to education.
Harrigan said she would make sure funding for K through 12 education is a priority.
“When the state isn’t supporting education financially it comes down to local levels. The towns and cities have to make up that. It is not fair for the municipalities to cover what the state won’t support,” Harrigan said.
Harrigan said she also wants to focus on continuing education with investments in secondary education and job training.
“We need to keep young people in the state and match the preparation in our higher education to the business and industry that has those job openings for people,” said Harrigan, adding she would encourage partnerships between schools and local businesses.
Harrigan said she would also support better funding for the state’s healthcare program HUSKY Health and for women’s healthcare programs.
Zupkus said she has a record of working for her constituents, including opposing 17 proposed tax increases.
“I don’t believe in overtaxing people. I am speaking up for people,” Zupkus said.
“Are we better off than we were eight years ago?” added Zupkus referring to when Gov. Dannel Malloy took office. “The answer is no.”
Harrigan said her willingness to work with everyone makes her stand out.
“The business as usual approach is not working for us,” Harrigan said. “I would be the kind of person that would ask questions and not just vote along party lines to keep things running, or not running, as usual. We all need to work together to solve the issues for the people of Connecticut.”