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Economics driving candidates for Ritter’s 38th District seat

Waterford - Voters in Waterford and Montville may be struck by the similarity of backgrounds among the three candidates vying to represent the 38th District in the state House of Representatives.

Republican Kathleen McCarty, Democrat Marc Balestracci and Green Party candidate Billy G. Collins all live in Waterford. All have some form of military experience on their resumes. McCarty and Collins come from backgrounds in education.

Economic concerns largely drive the candidates' goals for their hoped-for terms as the successor to Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, who currently holds the 38th District seat and is now running to represent the 20th District in the state Senate.

McCarty, chairwoman of the Waterford Board of Education, said a major goal of hers in office would be improving the state's economy through easing up taxes on small businesses and increasing the hurdles to the state instating unfunded mandates, especially in areas of education.

"It just seemed to me that the state was really moving in a direction where they were really making it harder and harder to do business in Connecticut," said McCarty.

She proposed signaling to small businesses that the state is "open for business" by eliminating the business entity tax that she said already had been significantly reduced.

Balestracci, a sergeant for Waterford Police, has trained his eye on infrastructure with dual goals of improved public safety and drawing more businesses to Southeastern Connecticut.

He said he would work to widen Interstate 95, a project he believes would draw more businesses to the area by increasing the fluidity of traffic on the highway. At the very least, he said, he wants to make alterations to on and off ramps to improve safety and decrease the likelihood of accidents.

"It's not just safety. Safety's a major part of it, but it's also about economic development," he said.

He said that, while out campaigning, he met one resident living near the interstate who joked that he wanted eminent domain to take his house so he could move away from the noise and backed-up traffic.

For Collins, who has worked as a professor at area colleges, there's a single versatile solution to a variety of economic and financial problems: establishing a state bank. North Dakota is the only state in the U.S. that has one.

Collins said he thinks state bank accounts would accrue greater interest than state investments in the private market. He said a state bank could offer lower-interest loans to residents. He views these loans as a way to bridge income gaps and invigorate the state economy.

As the third-party candidate in the race, Collins said what sets him apart is not being bound to an established ideology.

"I think it means that I can come at it with fresh ideas," he said.

Balestracci characterized himself as more fiscally conservative than McCarty despite his being a member of a more liberal party.

The Democrat criticized his opponent for her role as a member of Waterford's school board in continuing to pay Superintendent Jerome Belair at roughly the same level despite the fact that the superintendent is slated to begin collecting his pension from the state this year.

"I honestly think if most Waterford residents knew how much he was going to be making, they would be upset," said Balestracci.

McCarty defended the move as a means of ensuring the school system has sufficient time to find an adequate replacement for Belair, who is slated to retire in June.

"If Marc is more conservative than me, then maybe he should join the Republican Party," she quipped.

t.townsend@theday.com

Twitter: @ConnecticuTess

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