Maher, Boucher discuss economy in state's 26th Senate District

Photo of J.D. Freda
Left: Former State Sen.Toni Boucher. Right:  Ceci Maher, Boucher's Democratic opponent for the state Senate 26th District.

Left: Former State Sen.Toni Boucher. Right:  Ceci Maher, Boucher's Democratic opponent for the state Senate 26th District.

Hearst Connecticut Media file photos

WILTON — The two candidates facing off for the state's 26th Senate District differ on both the state's current fiscal outlook, as well as what can be done to bolster it.

Republican Toni Boucher and Democrat Ceci Maher already discussed their views on gun control and some of the fixes they would make to affordable housing laws in the state.

In terms of the economy, Boucher said the focus should be on retaining the state's workforce, reducing taxes and helping the state grow in the technology and life sciences industries.

Boucher proposes repealing a highway tax on trucks that she said will go into effect in January 2023 and "drive up the costs of food, consumer products and services." She also said she wants to cut the income tax from 5 percent to 4 percent for families making less than $175,000 a year and index state income tax brackets so that taxes paid on earnings do not outpace inflation. She also pitched eliminating the 1 percent meals tax enforced by the state

Maher agreed about furthering those industries in the state, but said the state should also focus on improving infrastructure and training the workforce outside of traditional college. 

She said improving public transportation, repairing bridges and upgrading other infrastructure is a key part of getting businesses to move and stay in Connecticut. She lauded the state's highway improvements, as well as recreational efforts, such as the Norwalk River Valley Trail.

"It's really important for quality of life, and that is what attracts companies," Maher said.

Where are we now?

Simply put, Maher said that the district is in the "best fiscal shape we've been in for a long time."

She pointed to the state having a surplus in the budget and a rainy day fund, as well as finally being in a position where the state can pay down its pension liabilities. She also pointed to business growth in Stamford, ASML's expansion in Wilton, and improvements to Westport's downtown.

"From a local perspective, things are looking up, and from a state perspective, we are in good shape," Maher said.

Boucher wasn't as rosy in her outlook.

She pointed to Connecticut's 4.7 percent drop in gross domestic product between April and June as an indicator that the state is not in good shape. She also pointed to personal income growth in the state in the second quarter was the lowest rate in the country while costs for energy and food continue to go up. 


Both Maher and Boucher said they believe a strong workforce starts in the schools. 

Boucher, a former Wilton Board of Education member, called Connecticut's education "definitely one of our best competitive advantages" as a whole. 

She said retaining the workforce is a big issue the state is having in keeping a healthy workforce.

"Connecticut seems to have a 'brain drain' problem when it comes to graduates right out of college. First of all, it's expensive for them to live here," Boucher said. She said she has seen trends of many recent graduates moving to other states, such as Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina and Florida to pursue careers instead of staying home.

Boucher focused on loan forgiveness incentives for recent graduates who choose to work in the state to help.

"Those high costs have driven them away, while the businesses have also been driven away," Boucher said. "We should incentivize graduates to stay here in certain fields that are in high demand, whether it is teaching, or its engineers for ASML. We could do loan forgiveness programs for them if they come work here and live here."

Maher instead focused on alternatives to traditional college as the possible solution. 

"I want to look towards the future and see how we're going to train and support the youth — and that includes developing a workforce that has critical skills," said Maher. "That is one of the reasons I love debt-free community college, because that allows students to train and that is going to fuel our state's economic growth."

She said not every student wants to go to a four-year liberal arts college, and it's important to provide those students with the information to seek out technical training, whether it be a trade, manufacturing or construction.

Maher lauded the efforts of nonprofit ReadyCT, which she said has been working with high school students who are "not looking to be traditional college students." She said she plans to aid in that work and aims to grow a well-balanced Connecticut workforce.

Types of industry

Both candidates pointed to industries they would like to see the district and state look to attract or grow.

Boucher called herself a huge supporter of the biotech and life sciences industries, specifically in the development of medicine and medical devices.

"I think that we have a tremendous opportunity to not only create jobs and a robust economy, but there is also a social good that involved in that by helping people survive and live a better quality of life," Boucher said.

Boucher said she is working with the University of Connecticut, her alma mater, to develop an entrepreneurial program focused on technology. She said she believes Connecticut has a bright future in engineering new technologies, such as microchips.

Maher also said there needs to be a big focus on biotech and said financial tech should be a focus for the district with its growth possibilities in Stamford. 

She said there is also a huge need for healthcare to meet the needs of the state's senior citizen population and brining in more training for those in the elder care industry is key.

Maher said that she also wants to see our hyperlocal downtown areas thrive through partnerships with the state. She wants to support local businesses through a number of efforts, but encourages more work with the Women's Business Development Council to help women-owned businesses.