139th House District hopefuls at odds over jobs

Montville - For more than two decades, State Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, said he has done his best to encourage economic growth and aid municipalities in his district.

Jonathan Gilman of Bozrah, Ryan's Republican challenger for a seat in the 139th House District, said he hasn't seen results from the Democrats in power and called for a change.

The two squared off at a sparsely attended debate Tuesday, offering positions on everything from tolls on state highways to assisted suicide. Held at Montville Town Hall, the debate was sponsored by The Day, the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut and the League of Women Voters of Southeastern Connecticut.

The 139th District covers Bozrah and parts of Montville and Norwich.

"I really believe it's time for a change," Gilman said. "I'm paying taxes like the rest of you and they keep increasing. It's not all Kevin's fault, but he represents the party in power."

Gilman called for a reduction in the tax burden and a halt to "overprotective" state regulations that he said are scaring businesses out of Connecticut and have kept the state lagging behind the rest of the country in terms of recovery from the recession.

"This legislative group either doesn't like Connecticut or they don't know how to attract business," Gilman said. "We're an embarrassment. We're the laughing stock of the country. We need change now."

Ryan said "the recession was not caused by what happened here in Connecticut," and Gov. Dannel Malloy has taken steps to make drastic cuts in spending while seeking new revenue sources to fund programs that might otherwise be cut. Malloy inherited a $3 billion deficit, he said.

"We have seen progress since Gov. Malloy has been in office. We have seen job increases," Ryan said. "The unemployment rate now stands at 6.4 percent. We have the lowest unemployment numbers since 2008."

Programs instituted by the governor, Ryan said, "have gone a long way to keeping jobs that may have been lost."

Gilman said he supported, with some hesitation, a proposal to amend the Constitution to support voting reforms.

"We have to get as many people out to vote as we can. On the other hand, it makes me nervous," Gilman said. "I'm for it in theory but the devil is in the details."

Ryan supports the measure and said, "all this does is take some language out of our Constitution that doesn't allow us to look at other options."

"Our problem is getting people out to vote," he said.

Ryan did not support Gov. Malloy's sweeping gun legislation and said his vote against it came after hearing from constituents who were firmly against it and because a public hearing was never held on the final bill. He said he did not think there would be any changes or action to repeal the bill, however.

Gilman called the bill a "misuse of power," an encroachment on civil rights and a reaction to what was a mental health issue.

Gilman said he was against assisted suicide and tolls in the state. He said while tolls seemed to be a "fair tax" that would collect money for much-needed infrastructure improvements, the state has not shown in the past that it would not use the money for other purposes.

Ryan said he had problems with the bill on proposed suicide as presented in the past because it offered "no real measure of why this would be necessary." He said he would hold off on giving an opinion on the issue until final language is written.

Ryan said he supports tolls solely to support the long-delayed completion of Route 11. Because of the layout of the state's highway, Ryan said it would be a difficult task to institute a toll program without major difficulties.

g.smith@theday.com

Twitter: @SmittyDay

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