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BROOKFIELD 107th candidates take on economy, education

October 11, 2018

BROOKFIELD — The economy, education and the environment are the top concerns for the candidates in the state House District 107 race, but they disagree on how to deal with the issues.

Republican incumbent Steve Harding is running against Democrat Dan Pearson to represent the district that covers Brookfield, Bethel and Danbury. Both live in Brookfield.

Harding, who was voted to the seat in 2015 in a special election, said the state needs to focus on closing its budget gap by re-examining its agreement with state employees and switching to a 401K-type pension plan for new employees.

The existing pension plan is driving the state further into debt, Harding said.

“We’re passing that debt onto our sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters, who are going to find it even more difficult to live in this state and our budget gap is going to continue to grow,” he said.

Pearson argued investing in education, health care and the environment will cause businesses to flock to the state and improve the economy.

He also supported closing tax loopholes for the rich to bring in revenue and starting a loan forgiveness program for students who stay in Connecticut for a certain number of years. After time, these people will have friends, jobs and homes in the state, Pearson said.

“Now, you’re here for life,” he said. “That’s how we’re growing our economy.”

The two clashed on tolls, a measure Harding opposes and Pearson backs.

“I’m for actual structural changes that are going to help us in the long run,” Pearson said.

But because of the district’s border with New York, Harding said he feared many toll booths would be installed in the Danbury region.

“Tolls would have a devastating impact on this area,” he said.

Pearson works with marginalized kids through his job at Norwalk Grassroots Tennis & Education, and said funding education, both in the district and in bigger cities, is the best way to improve the state’s finances. If students across the state are well educated, they will better contribute, he said.

“Our kids go to schools in Bethel, Brookfield and Danbury, but our kids also go to school in Bridgeport, New Haven, Norwalk, Waterbury,” he said. “We are part of the 107th, but we’re part of Connecticut. In order for us to thrive here, kids everywhere need to thrive, from our rural areas to our cities.”

But Harding said his focus would be on getting money for Bethel, Brookfield and Danbury.

“There is so little to go around at the moment,” said Harding, a former member of Brookfield’s Board of Education. “The problem is, if we start giving more funds to different areas, it usually means less funds at our expense and that’s something I’m not willing to do.”

Both called the existing formula to disperse education funding to the towns arbitrary and said it needed to be changed.

They also support Brookfield’s $78.1 million plan to build a new Huckleberry Hill Elementary School. The town plans to pursue a state grant to cover part of the project.

“It is critical,” said Harding, who grew up in Brookfield. “It was falling down when I went to Huckleberry.”

Harding said he fought for Bethel to earn a grant for its renovations to Rockwell and Johnson elementary schools and will do so again for Brookfield.

Pearson added he would also lead the charge to convince residents to vote for the project.

“I’m going to go out there and knock on doors every day,” he said.

The candidates are also both strong supporters of the environment, with Harding citing his record in providing money for the lakes in the district to deal with invasive species.

“These (lakes) are our best resources in our area and we need to do everything to protect them,” Harding said.

Pearson said the state needs to invest in renewable energy and strengthen its environmental protection laws, especially in light of the United Nation’s recent report on the devastating impacts of climate change.

He criticized Harding for voting against a bill requiring climate change education in schools.

“In order to address any topic, we need to educate ourselves first and that starts with educating our youth because that’s the future they’re going to have to go in,” Pearson said.

Harding, who added he also supports efforts to combat climate change, said he voted against that bill because he did not want to mandate what local schools teach. Instead, he voted for another bill that encouraged climate change education.

“We have our local boards of education,” Harding said. “We have teachers. We have administrators. Those are the individuals who should be drafting our curriculum. We, as legislators, shouldn’t be politicizing curriculum and mandating what gets taught and doesn’t get taught.”

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