NORWALK, Conn. – The differences between a Norwalk Republican incumbent for a state House seat and his Democratic challenger were immediately obvious Wednesday night.
"Government spends too much money, and that is why we have the most incredible tax burden of any state in the United States of America," state Rep. Larry Cafero, House minority leader, said at the League of Women Voters candidates forum for the 141st District. "We need to control our spending."
But challenger Kate Tepper said, "I don't believe that Connecticut actually does have the highest tax burden in the country. Our business taxes are, in actuality, low, as are our personal taxes. The question I think we should be asking is how to raise revenue."
About 40 people watched the debate, held in Norwalk Community College's GenRe Forum and moderated by Charlotte Garrell of the League of Women Voters of Fairfield. Cafero and Tepper agreed on the need for jobs in these tough times but disagreed on other economic factors, such as the minimum wage, tolls for truck and high gas prices.
The state's unemployment rate is going in the opposite direction of the rest of the country "because we spend too much money," Cafero said.
The economic recovery is slow, Tepper countered, because unemployed people don't have money to spend. "In these tough economic times, my opponent wants to cut the very government spending that would increase demand," she said, referring to "the Bush disaster" as a prime example of the result of those ideas.
Raising the minimum wage would give people more money to spend, Tepper said, commenting that some people are exhausted by trying to earn a living. Cafero countered that although he had voted for raising the minimum wage in the past, now was not the time to do so. It would lead to layoffs, he said, adding that there are many regulations on small businesses already.
The tax structure is keeping businesses out of Connecticut, said Cafero, frustrated that the bipartisan jobs bill he helped to pass did not include more money for small businesses. He said he had gotten on board with the effort but was disappointed at the outcome.
Their philosophical differences were obvious, he said. "My opponent believes we have a revenue problem, that we don't have enough revenue," he said. "I believe we have a spending problem."
Tepper said: "We need to look for better ways to use the money that we have, but at the moment the government is already doing that."
That includes efforts to renegotiate leases, consolidate departments and use the government's buying power to get items cheaper, she said.