In election of contrasts, Formica in 20th Senatorial District

In the 1971 hit single, “I’d Love to Change the World,” songwriter and blues guitarist Alvin Lee of the band Ten Years After encapsulated the fanciful idealism of the then recently passed 1960s when he wrote the lyric, “Tax the rich, feed the poor, ‘til there are no rich no more.”

Though she was only 8 years old at the time, when listening to Democratic state Senate candidate Martha Marx, one is left with the impression that such sentiment is not so far from her current ideology.

Marx, now age 55, is a registered nurse with the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeastern Connecticut. She seeks to unseat the incumbent state senator in the 20th District, Paul Formica, 65, a businessman, owner of Flanders Fish Market and Restaurant in East Lyme and the former first selectman of that town.

They present quite the contrast. Marx is an unabashed progressive who wants to use the instruments of government to address many a wrong. Formica is a cautious, pragmatic centrist Republican.

The differences were on full display at their Oct. 15 debate in Waterford, where Marx kept pushing Formica for suggestions on where he would find the revenues to address a looming state deficit and meet the state’s many needs. She chided him for wanting to study things rather than take a stand.

But Formica wasn’t interested in talking about new revenues, because that means taxes and maybe tolls, choices he only wants to turn to as last resorts. As for looking before leaping, in other words studying a policy before acting, that’s not such a bad tendency to possess.

Marx served one term on the New London City Council but failed in her re-election bid in 2017. The 20th District where Marx seeks to displace Formica includes New London, Waterford, East Lyme, Salem, Old Lyme, Bozrah and portions of Montville and Old Saybrook.

There is much Marx wants to do, much of it noble. She wants better funding for those in the health services field, particularly home health aides. She wants more support for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. She wants better funding for urban school districts and for cities. And the list goes on.

But Marx is running in a state confronting a $2 billion deficit and fiscal challenges for years to come caused by excessive debt and the failure, until very recently, to set aside adequate funding to meet state workers' pension and health care obligations.

As far as finding revenues, Marx points to closing the carried interest loophole that allows wealthy investors to convert income into capital gains that are taxed at a lower rate. And she, as we do, supports the imposition of highway tolls to raise funds for transportation.

But she does not appear to fully appreciate that yet higher state taxation could be counterproductive, driving more people, and their wealth, from the state.

Formica is the better choice.

As co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, working with another local senator, fellow co-chair Sen. Cathy Osten, the Democrat serving the 19th District, Formica helped steer through the legislature a rare bipartisan budget that held the line on taxes, at least for a time. It also included important budgetary structural changes: language that finally gives the constitutional spending cap teeth; a $2 billon annual cap on bond authorizations; and a volatility cap intended to prevent the legislature from overspending (and instead saving or paying down debt) when it gets a tax revenue spike.

Formica took the lead in developing and achieving passage of legislation that will allow Millstone Power Station owner Dominion Energy to compete, with other greenhouse-emissions-free renewable energy sources, for the sale of the electricity the nuclear station in Waterford generates. This approach to pricing is critical to prevent the premature closing of Millstone, which would be economically devastating locally and could lead to power shortages.

The incumbent is a strong advocate for the tourism industry. He has a solid record of constituent service. And in passing budgets Formica has fought to protect existing funding for people with intellectual disabilities, for mental health treatment and for elderly services.

Voters should return Paul Formica to a third term representing the 20th Senatorial District.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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