NORWALK, Conn. – Improving the economy and making sure Norwalk schools receive fair aid from the state were the main focuses of a debate Monday night between candidates for the 137th State House District.
“We need to be more creative about putting money in the hands of small businesses to help keep them here,” said Chris Perone, the Democratic incumbent. Initiatives such as tax credits have helped businesses stay open and people keep their jobs, he said, and more credits can help companies grow.
“We’re very business unfriendly,” said Joanne Romano, the Republican challenger. She pointed to the decline in blue-collar jobs and said that one of her focuses would be on increasing the number of manufacturing jobs in the state.
With the number of foreclosures across the state rising, the government needs to help people who are losing their homes, Perone said.
“It is incumbent upon the state of Connecticut to do what it can to make sure people have a roof over their heads,” he said. “We are vehemently in it on their behalf and if it requires more assistance, I’ll get behind it 100 percent. I’d like to see those numbers turn around and I’ll work to make that happen.”
It comes back to jobs, Romano said. “When you have a thriving economy, people are working, people are able to pay their mortgages and we have a lower amount of foreclosures. We need to start coming back to jobs, we need to employ our constituents. We need to give them means in order to keep their homes.”
Both candidates agreed that the amount of money that the Norwalk school system receives from the state is insufficient and unfair. One of the biggest problems is that the wealth of a town determines how much aid it gets, Perone said.
“Down here in Fairfield County, the property values are higher, but we still have the same issues, the same needs and the same concerns for our schools,” he said. The legislature is working to improve the amount of state aid each town gets. “If it’s a bad idea, I won’t support it.”
Romano said, “I believe that rather than looking at us because of our property values, the state needs to take into consideration the income tax that each municipality pays." She added that because Norwalk is close to towns such as Darien, Westport and New Canaan, it gets lumped in with them. “Just because our property values are high, it doesn’t mean that the people in our community are high income-earning people.”