DARIEN — With Election Day approaching, candidates faced off in a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters in Darien town hall Tuesday night.

Like most debates held throughout Connecticut this election season, candidates addressed the two hottest topics of the night: the state’s fiscal woes and how to attract more businesses.

Democratic state Sen. Carlo Leone, who represents Darien and Stamford, said through legislation and working in a bipartisan manner, Connecticut will be able to compete with neighboring states in attracting businesses. Through the Small Business Express Program and the Economic Manufacturing and Assistance Act, over 100 companies alone in Darien and Stamford have benefitted, he said.

“I believe that marketing Connecticut’s strengths instead of bashing Connecticut is the way to attract businesses to our state,” he said.

In terms of state spending, Leone said Connecticut is trending in the right direction, but the pension problem that was multiple decades in the making will not be undone within a year.

Meanwhile, Leone’s Republican opponent, Jerry Bosak, suggested creating a basic tax relief program in which small businesses would receive a tax break for offering students internships.

“Therefore, the student would be more apt to, instead of getting an education and leaving the state, to stay in Connecticut and raise their family,” Bosak said.

Bosak said the state is in a financial crisis and losing businesses.

State Sen. Bob Duff, D-25, said Connecticut has one of the most highly skilled and productive workforces in the nation.

“Invest in our people, invest in our transportation system, invest in education, and invest in housing for everyone,” Duff said. “That’s really what will help keep businesses coming in from New York.”

By investing in education and growing the tax base, Duff said, more companies will organically grow in the state and attract out-of-state companies.

Throughout the night, Republicans, who are the minority party in Hartford, asserted Democratic leadership is to blame for the current fiscal situation. Also addressed was the the controversial proposal of tolls.

Republican state Rep. Terrie Wood, who represents Darien and Norwalk, said she agreed with tolls in concept, but that it is not feasible now.

“We have to cut spending in other areas before we implement tolls,” she said, adding that tolls would place another burden on already heavily-taxed travelers.

“We need to keep people here, and tolls would be another cost,” she said. “We need to settle our other expenses first.”

Anzelmo Graziosi, Republican candidate for the state House in the 147th district, said he was opposed to any new revenue sources, especially if the Democrats are in charge.

“We’ve seen time and time again, any time they’re given new sources of revenue they will find ways of spending it,” Graziosi said.

Bringing in tolls would cost the state revenue from the federal government, he said, however he acknowledged tolls would have to be introduced in the future.

Graziosi’s Democratic opponent Matt Blumenthal, son of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said he would support tolling programs that had discounts similar to Massachusetts, ensuring out-of-state drivers and trucks paid their fair share toward the state’s infrastructure.

“We’re leaving money on the table,” Blumenthal said.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact

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