It’s fair to say that republicans outnumbered democrats in the audience for the state senate debate. State budget director, Bob Genuruario, who previously held the seat for many years looked on as the opponents squared off on what’s turning out to be the chief issue in the race, state funding for Norwalk. Wilms contends that Duff has failed to hold onto the level of funding previously held.
"We just don't seem to have a lot of clout up there in Hartford," Wilms said. "First of all, I would be on Gov. Rell's team. We're still getting less money than before (Duff) took office. I think we should be getting at least $40 million more, atop of the $17 million that we're already getting."
Wilms argued that majority Democrats have steered state dollars toward Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven. "There is a marriage between party and geography here and that is a fact," he said.
Duff counters that he’s increased funding levels 12% since he took office.
Duff blasted an anecdote told earlier by Wilms that suggested that lawmakers allocate state aid "by getting together in a back room" and "the guys with the biggest muscles get the most money." He rejected Wilms' assertion that political affiliation plays a role in state aid.What is true is that state funding for Norwalk has continued to be an issue for the Norwalk delegations for a long time. Agreement on changing the educational cost sharing funding formula is not disputed. What to do about it becomes the contention. Wilms charges that the 20 year Democratic majority in the legislator has ignored Norwalk at the expense of favoring Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven. Wilms claims that Duff has not been able to stand up to the Democratic leadership and do more for Norwalk. Duff touted a list of legislation he’s supported that delivered benefits to Norwalk including tax credits, job promotion, and economic issues. Duff made clear that during his first term he’s increased state aide nearly 12 percent.
"If the governor wants to do more for Norwalk, I'm all ears," Duff said. "State aid to Norwalk has always been a struggle and it will always continue to be a struggle. We will always do everything we can to get more money. State aid to a municipality is not a Republican or Democratic issue."
Brian Lockhardt, reporter for the Norwalk Advocate, caught both candidates in a hypocritical moment.
Both candidates said neighboring towns do not build their share of affordable housing.
But at a forum in Darien last week, Duff and Wilms sided with Nearwater Lane residents concerned over a proposal to turn a single-family home into a 13-unit affordable housing complex.
The Hour, State funding focus of District 25 candidates' debate By ROBERT KOCH 10/31/06
The Norwalk Advocate , State aid is a big issue at debate, Brian Lockhardt 10/31/06