ELECTION 2016: Challenger Garrity looks to address budget, transportation, education
Published 2:05 pm, Sunday, November 6, 2016
FAIRFIELD — Democratic challenger Fred Garrity plans to focus on the budget and government spending, along with transportation and education objectives, if elected this November. The issues he looks to focus on are similar to those his opponent, incumbent and Republican Laura Devlin, would plan to address.
Garrity, Trumbull’s Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman, is challenging Devlin to represent Fairfield and part of Trumbull as the 134th district’s state house representative. Devlin won the vacant seat in 2014 when Republican state Sen. Tony Hwang ran for state senator.
“There are a lot of people in today’s world who like to give great speeches on how to complain about somebody else rather than accomplish something positive,” he said. “That’s not me. If I take on a job, I’m going to do it.”
If elected, Garrity’s first priority would be balancing the state budget and addressing government spending.
“If it’s not everybody’s priority, they shouldn’t be running because you can’t have education budgets, transportation budgets, public safety budgets unless the overall budget is set, balanced and spending kept in check with revenue,” Garrity said.
He said the state’s system based on estimated revenue can only work during prosperous years and, along with the budget itself, the system for state budgeting requires reform. Garrity would look to stabilize tax rates, especially for midsize and small businesses that will become significant to the state’s “economic engine” because major manufacturers are leaving the state, he said. Changing tax rates and retroactive taxes can cripple small and midsize businesses that then cannot accurately project their overhead, inventories or manpower, he added.
“When you don’t stabilize your tax rate so that people can have the ability to plan, you don’t have both feet on the ground yet,” Garrity said.
The challenger called for a “predictable formula” for the return of Fairfield County tax dollars from Hartford, calling “political jockeying” during budget season to determine how much funding is returned to towns like Fairfield and Trumbull unfair.
“There should be a balanced formula that income dictates the return, not political gamesmanship,” he said.
Garrity would look to address transportation and education in office. He called Fairfield County transportation neglected and said the county getting its “fair share” as the “economic engine that drives this state” is among his priorities. Along with supporting infrastructure, Garrity would encourage funding for next-generation transportation and plan for the county’s future.
On education, Garrity said Connecticut’s legislative requirements for education or testing requirements need to come with funding. He said similar to the situation of businesses, towns and school districts need to know set, unchanging tax and funding information to plan.
Garrity criticized his opponent Devlin, claiming she almost always votes with her party. Devlin said she is an independent voice, voting as she believes is best for the 134th District.
“When I go places and I participate, I’m effective,” Garrity said. “We hear a lot from my opponent on what she tried to do, the reason it’s somebody else’s fault and she makes choices that are unexplainable. She talks about working together, but she doesn’t.”
Born in Bridgeport, Garrity spent time in Fairfield with his grandmother while growing up, and has lived in Trumbull for more than half his life. Garrity is widowed, but remarried with a “great blended family,” including four children.
Garrity entered government in 2006 as Appeals Commissioner for the Trumbull Zoning Board of Appeals. He served on the Greater Bridgeport Regional Planning Agency, chairing its board of directors twice, before his current role on P&Z.
“Unlike others who promise and say what needs to be done, I actually have a record of working across the aisle successfully for almost 15 years,” Garrity said. “To have a success rate that I have for 15 years and the reputation I have, that’s proof that I know how to work across the aisle.”
He emphasized charity work in the community, including founding the CT United Ride m in 2001, the largest 9/11 tribute in the state involving an annual motorcade through Fairfield County towns.
In the presidential election, Garrity said it is “highly likely” he will “end up” voting for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“There seems to be only one logical choice, and it’s not by party — it’s by the best candidate — but there are so many imperfections,” he said. “One side just happens to have more.”