WETHERSFIELD - The 28th District Assembly election between Connecticut House incumbent Russell Morin (D) and challenger John Console (R), both Wethersfield residents, is heating up, with taxes, job creation, and education amongst the hot button issues fueling the fire.
A fiscal conservative, Console is an outspoken advocate for tax decreases.
“At a minimum, there could be a 10 percent decrease in taxes and with proper structure of how government runs, you wouldn’t skip a beat,” he said
Morin said that he is not opposed to tax cuts to increase government efficiency and “reduce redundancies” as long as they are made sensibly and without hampering crucial programs.
“I’m not for cutting taxes just for the sake of cutting taxes,” he said.
On the issue of job creation, Morin has spoken out in favor of state-funded incentive programs, such as the Small Business Express Program that is brining Jackson Labs to the state, designed to keep businesses in Connecticut, while Console said he doubts that the state’s job-seekers will reap the benefits its proponents claim it will bring.
“It’s a new industry, yes, but we have industries in the state that are leaving and we’re bringing this bioscience industry, but big manufacturing companies are taking their business down south,” Console said. “So we’re not cultivating and helping the businesses that have been here for years.”
A proponent of such measures, Morin argues that the presence of companies such as Jackson Labs will encourage state universities and other educational institutions to adapt their curriculums to prepare students to take jobs in new sectors. He is also in favor of continuing programs that partner manufacturing companies with technical schools in order to build a labor force to fill those jobs.
“We have to be proactive in keeping the big employers here and attract new ones,” Morin said.
Console has fielded criticism from his opponent for voting against Wethersfield’s Board of Education budget, which he said was not a move to hinder education growth in his municipality. His approach when it comes to education seems to mirror that of his tax stance--it is not about how much money, but what you do with it. He noted that despite yearly tax increases, Wethersfield’s standardized test scores remain stagnant.
“[The Board of Education’s] way of fixing the problem is throwing more money at it,” he said. “That doesn’t fix anything. If we were to give the Board of Education another five million dollars, our rankings would not go up because they’re too bogged down in bureaucracy.”
The town’s education budget, which the Town Council approved 8-1, included beneficial additions such as all-day kindergarten and reduced class sizes resulting from the hiring of new teachers, Morin said.
“He can say whatever it is he wants, but everyone in town has been supportive of what the Board of Education is doing,” Morin said.
A business owner and former financial services executive, Console is currently the Deputy Mayor of Wethersfield.
A former Wethersfield mayor and Board of Education member, Morin has served in the state House of Representatives since 2006. He chairs the Government, Administration and Elections Committee, and is a member of both the Finance and Transportation committees.