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Meet the Candidate: Derek Slap

Derek Slap. Submitted photo (we-ha.com file photo)

We-Ha.com is offering our readers the opportunity to meet the candidates running in the 5th State Senate District special election on Feb. 26, 2019.

Compiled by Ronni Newton

We-Ha.com is offering our readers the opportunity to “Meet the Candidate” – designed to help them get to know the candidates running for office in the 5th State Senate District special election.

Identical questionnaires have been sent to all candidates, and each profile received has been submitted directly to We-Ha.com by the candidate or the candidate’s campaign management. The responses have not been edited but have been formatted to match our publication style. Questions left blank have been deleted.

As profiles are received, they will be published on We-Ha.com under the “Government” tab. We-Ha.com is not making endorsements of any political candidates but we are publishing this information in order to assist voters in being informed and prepared when they go to the polls on Feb. 26.

If you are a candidate and wish to submit a profile, please return it by email to Ronni Newton at [email protected] as soon as possible

Candidate Name: Derek Slap

Party, Position seeking: Democrat seeking 5th Senate District Seat

Family information: Married to Alexandra, with three children, Maggie (14), Zoe (12), and Charlie (6)

Other occupation: President and CEO of the CT Technology Council

Political experience: Currently serving my 2nd term in the legislature. I’ve also served ten years in municipal and state government, including 4 years as chief of staff with the CT State Senate Democrats

Other relevant experience: I spent ten years as a journalist, 6 of which as a news anchor and reporter for NBC Connecticut. I also teach political science at Yale University & Sacred Heart University.

Why are you running for office? To lift up other people’s voices. It’s that simple. I grew up in a family that valued public service; my father was a minister and my mother just retired from a long career as a geriatric nurse. I always wanted to help others and build coalitions. In my two years as a State Representative, I’ve been able to bring people together and advance important policies that help families, seniors and our youth. I introduced a landmark pay equity bill that just became law a month ago and I helped to write legislation that created the first-ever independent MDC consumer advocate. These accomplishments don’t belong just to me; they belong to the citizen activists and neighbors who worked with me. Together, we made a real difference and I’m excited to continue that advocacy in the state senate. Connecticut has its challenges. Let us work together to strengthen our communities and practice a politics of inclusion and respect for all people.

What issues are your primary area of focus? All legislators must have the state’s economy and persistent budget challenges as their top priorities. Connecticut just had one of its best years for job growth in two decades, but we can and must do better. There’s no easy fix but solutions include a sustainable/affordable state budget that invests in education and transportation while harnessing Connecticut’s value proposition as a small, smart state with a great workforce located in between two of the nation’s biggest economic engines. I’m committed to working with members of both parties to improve our economy and do it in a way that doesn’t adopt the trickle-down, regressive policies that only exacerbate the hardships middle class families are feeling.

I should add that I have introduced bills this session to combat underage use of e-cigarettes. This is a public health crisis that deserves our attention. I also authored a bill to protect seniors from age discrimination in the job interview process. This is a real problem that hurts seniors and undermines our economy.

Several topics are likely on the minds of voters in the 5th District. These are complex topics, but please provide a brief response to the following:

  • What is your approach to the State of Connecticut’s budget and using tolls, sports betting, and legalized marijuana to increase revenue? None of these things will solve Connecticut’s budget challenges, which were caused over decades by both parties ignoring the state’s pension and health care liabilities. It took 60 years of irresponsible behavior by Republicans and Democrats to create the budget mess and it will take time to fully dig ourselves out. Toll revenue must go to transportation projects because, thankfully, voters passed a constitutional amendment last year that dictated that. So, while tolls would help our transportation infrastructure, they should not be relied on to balance the deficit. Revenue from sports gaming would, at best, offset the losses we see from Connecticut’s casinos as increased competition erodes profits. Marijuana should be decided on the basis on what’s best for the public health of our residents, not potential revenue.
  • Specifically, where do you think spending cuts should be made in the state budget? Every agency should be scoured for savings and efficiencies. Having served on the Energy and Technology committee I’ve seen initiatives launched to reduce utility costs for state buildings and streamline permitting. We can also lower our annual debt payments by borrowing less. We should continue to look at savings at all levels of government. For example, a bill in the Environment committee currently under consideration would allow for more regional animal shelters, saving state and local dollars.  
  • What can the state do about unfunded pension liabilities? First, the state has to ensure that it never repeats the budget practices that got us into this mess, specifically neglecting to properly fund the current pension liabilities. Important reforms were made in the last bipartisan budget, which include a volatility clause to put unexpected revenue from the income tax into the state’s rainy day fund and pay off debt. We also created a new tier, a 401k/hybrid plan, which will reduce costs for taxpayers. Going forward we need to refinance the teacher’s pension liabilities in order to reduce annual costs and ensure the fund will be there for the teachers when they need it.
  • What is your opinion on regionalizing some services? In some cases, it makes sense, as I mentioned above for animal shelters. Other municipal functions should also be looked at to save taxpayer money. Bloomfield and West Hartford already share health districts and that’s been successful by all accounts. In other cases, the state can help to be a catalyst for communities to find additional shared efficiencies so savings can be passed along to taxpayers. No matter what the proposal is, residents deserve an opportunity to see a cost-benefit analysis so each community can make an informed decision.
  • What is your opinion on Educational Cost Sharing for the towns in the 5th District? For far too long West Hartford hasn’t received its fair funding of educational dollars. In part, this is because of the formula used to allot funding and its failure to fully realize the economic challenges facing many West Hartford families. In recent years, we’ve seen attempts to reduce funding and shift it to other communities. I have fought hard – and will continue to do so – to protect education funding for our schools and students in the 5th district.

What do you feel is the biggest issue facing 5th District voters today? All families are impacted by the state’s economic and budget challenges. We must strengthen our economy and tackle the deficits in a responsible manner. Middle class families are getting squeezed and they need a strong advocate. Many families I hear from are also concerned about the impact the Trump agenda may have on Connecticut, in terms of women’s health care, education, gun safety, tax policy, environmental regulations, net neutrality and consumer protections. I believe we need a state senator who will ensure that the reckless and divisive Trump agenda doesn’t take root here.

What do you feel differentiates you from other candidates running for this position? I am focused on running a positive campaign that highlights how I’ve been able to work across the aisle to get things done. In just two years I earned awards from HARC (for advocacy for folks with disabilities), AARP (for fighting for lower utility costs for seniors), and the League of Conservation Voters (for protection of our water). I’ve also been able to pass a landmark pay equity law, help create the position of independent MDC consumer advocate, and phase out the state income tax on social security.

Anything else you would like to share? Last year West Hartford lost more than 30 years of legislative experience at the Capitol. I believe families want someone who they can trust to be an effective advocate for them from day one. West Hartford is a wonderful place to raise a family and I will work tirelessly to keep it that way.

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