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Dubitsky, Donnelly face off in repeat race for the 47th House District

The race for the second largest House district in the state is a repeat of 2016, with two-term Republican incumbent Rep. Doug Dubitsky facing off against Democratic challenger Kate Donnelly.

The 47th District is largely rural and covers the northern part of Norwich, as well as parts of Lisbon and Lebanon and all of Scotland, Chaplin, Hampton, Canterbury, Sprague and Franklin. With that geographical spread comes a lot of driving to meet with constituents and a wide variety of town-specific concerns, from a golf course project in Franklin requiring a new sewer line to town ownership of the Lebanon Green.

Even within the perennial topic of education, for example, residents' worries range from the fate of the state's smallest high school at Parish Hill in Chaplin to English as a Second Language education in Norwich schools.

Both candidates noted the need to fix the state's Educational Cost Sharing program in order to better serve rural school districts. Donnelly, 66, said many residents fear that rising education costs for rural districts will impact quality, and Dubitsky, 55, said the wild fluctuation in ECS funding projections last year nearly pushed Parish Hill, a grade 7-12 school of about 140 kids, to the breaking point.

"The way that the legislature treated the towns in the last two years is just horrific," he said, highlighting the struggle towns had to submit a budget with no idea what they might get from the state. He voted against the state's final budget proposal.

"People want to maintain their good quality schools, and they don't want to continue having increased property taxes to do it," Donnelly said, noting that education alongside health care was a personal issue for many constituents.

Both candidates also pushed for a balanced budget, though their approaches differed. Dubitsky said he favored Republican governor hopeful Bob Stefanowski's plan; he stressed that the proposal wasn't a complete gutting of the income tax but rather a series small tax cuts that would encourage growth, which could eventually lead to income tax cuts.

Donnelly, on the other hand, favored Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont's plan, saying that the elimination of the income tax would collapse the state government and send property taxes skyrocketing. She wanted to look into energy efficiency as a way to save money — she manages the Solarize CT programs in 85 communities statewide — as well as alternative sources of income, such as tolls.

She drives an electric car, so she doesn't contribute to the gas tax. The installations of tolls, she said, would have everyone contributing to better their transportation infrastructure.

Dubitsky vehemently opposed the installation of tolls, citing the amount of money it would cost to install and the lack of assurance that the revenue would go toward road repairs rather than bus or train infrastructure or even another part of the state's budget. A constitutional amendment regarding a "transportation lockbox" is on the ballot this year.

He is also representing state Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, also a lieutenant governor candidate, in a lawsuit against outgoing Gov. Dannel Malloy for authorizing a $10 million study to investigate the viability of electronic tolling in the state. He said it was an example of Malloy overstepping his boundaries by bypassing the legislature on the measure.

Donnelly said she would like the state to support paid family leave and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour to support families in poverty. She also supported legalizing recreational marijuana for people over age 21 as a way to combat the opioid crisis, which has hit eastern Connecticut especially hard; she noted the income from taxes could also be used for boosting mental health and addiction services.

Dubitsky said he would like to see the state become more proactive in keeping small business owners in the state, and proposals for paid family leave and a $15 minimum wage would only hurt them and jobseekers by preventing them from hiring lower-skilled workers. He would also like to see the Department of Motor Vehicles privatized to make it more efficient.

Both candidates pledged to do the most they can to meet with constituents, knocking on doors and hosting coffee hours, to hear their issues and give them a strong voice in Hartford.

a.hutchinson@theday.com

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