Hewett, Docker disagree on jobs bill at 39th District candidates' forum

Democratic Rep. Ernest Hewett of the 39th District, right, and his Republican opponent Daniel Docker spar Thursday over the state of Connecticut’s role in granting financial aid to the City of New London during a political forum hosted by The Day at the Public Library of New London.
Democratic Rep. Ernest Hewett of the 39th District, right, and his Republican opponent Daniel Docker spar Thursday over the state of Connecticut’s role in granting financial aid to the City of New London during a political forum hosted by The Day at the Public Library of New London. Tim Cook/The Day

New London — The difference between the Democratic incumbent for the 39th House District seat and his Republican challenger became apparent Thursday night when the two men were asked about the $600 million Connecticut jobs bill.

Daniel Docker, who is challenging state Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, in his bid for a fifth term in Hartford, would not have supported the jobs bill passed by the legislature this year, saying the government should stay out of private business affairs and should not use taxpayer money to help private businesses.

"If a private sector business is all that it should be, it wouldn't need taxpayer money,'' Docker said during an hour-long forum sponsored by The Day at the Public Library of New London. "Once again, the governor is using our money.''

But Hewett countered that in addition to giving companies incentives to expand, the jobs bill also includes $10,000 to $250,000 loans for small businesses and subsidized training for those who lose their jobs.

"This bill must have been pretty good, because all but one Republican voted for it,'' Hewett said.

Hewett and Docker had a spirited debate Thursday, touching on state issues such as minimum wage increases and topics closer to home, like state aid to New London.

Hewett, who co-sponsored a bill to raise the minimum wage by 37 cents, said $8.25 an hour is not enough to live on. Docker said government should not mandate how a business spends its money.

Docker said he would only support government plans and regulations that help children without support systems, the physically and mentally disabled, the elderly and those who are retired.

"But leave the rest of us alone,'' he said. "Whenever government tries to legislate every portion of our lives ... whenever government gets involved in something ... they don't do it well. It's always rob Peter to pay Paul."

But Hewett maintained that government is there to help people when they lose a job or get sick or injured on the job. He pointed to $30 million in aid the state gives New London every year because the city is a considered a distressed municipality — a designation that has to do, in part, with the low number of owner-occupied homes.

"Republicans all have the same message — work hard, get an education, get a job and you can make it,'' Hewett said. "My message is, if you fall ... there will be someone to help you. The government will get you back on your feet.''

The 39th Assembly District is entirely in New London and includes the first and second voting districts in the city.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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