Paid Sick Leave

Though Elizabeth Esty voted against a bill in 2009 that would have mandated paid sick leave, she has expressed considerable support for the 2011 version, which ultimately passed in the General Assembly and was signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy.

The problem with the 2009 version, Esty said, was that it did not “achieve the right balance of protecting workers without hurting small businesses.”

The 2011 version however, “should be the model for a national measure.” According to campaign spokesman Jeb Fain, the 2011 version “exempts manufacturers — and many of the manufacturers in central and northwest Connecticut are small businesses.” 

Andrew Roraback uses a supporters back to tally votes as they are counted. (New Haven Register Photo/Peter Casolino)

Andrew Roraback voted against both the 2009 and 2011 versions of the bill, and spoke vociferously against the measure on the Senate floor in 2011. Roraback questioned why, if the would be mandating that employers provide paid sick leave for their employees, certain businesses would be exempted.

“Our YMCAs, God bless them, they lobbied us day and night to not be covered by this bill, even though they are providing childcare in the city of Torrington and throughout the state of Connecticut, they are caring for our youngest and most vulnerable people,” he said.

“My YMCA said if this passes, it’s going to cost us, I think they said $15,000 and we’re going to make it up by not sending kids to our summer camp on scholarships. The money that we use to send kids to our summer camp on scholarship will be used up paying for paid sick leave.”

That exemption was one of Roraback’s objections to the bill. Only employers with 50 or more employees are subject to the act, which went into effect on Jan. 1, but the YMCA, alone among large nonprofits, is exempt.

“If you are a nonprofit that is not the YMCA, you still get caught in its teeth,” he said.

Elizabeth Esty arrives at her campaign gathering on primary night Aug. 14, 2012

Esty, on the other hand, lauded the YMCA exemption, according to Fain, who called it a “key reason” for her support. The YMCA, he said, is a “major provider of child care services.”

Affordable Care Act

The two candidates demonstrate stark differences when it comes to the federal Affordable Care Act.

Roraback has said repeatedly that he would like it repealed: “I continue to believe that this federal solution will prove to be both unworkable and unaffordable and should be repealed as it was neither read nor understood by members of Congress before its passage.”

However, he believes that the provision that allows children to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26, the provision that would prevent “discrimination” on the basis of pre-existing conditions, and the “portability” of health insurance should be “the foundation for future reform efforts.”

Instead, Roraback advocates “empowerment” of states’ ability to provide affordable health care.

“A better approach would be to empower each state to devise a system to ensure that no American is denied basic health care,” he said.

Esty, like her fellow Democrats, has spoken in favor of the bill: “The Supreme Court has made the right decision both legally and morally, and I applaud the president’s courage in taking on much needed reform. Now that the court has ruled, it’s time for both parties to stop bickering and start solving problems, making quality healthcare more affordable and, -— most importantly -—  creating jobs and rebuilding our middle class.”

Federal Stimulus

Less stark differences appear when discussing the federal stimulus, though the tone is somewhat different between the two candidates.

While Roraback does support some infrastructure investment, he said that when stimulus funds were handed out, “Too little of the money spent made its way to the 5th District and too few families were made more secure by virtue of this massive federal expenditure of taxpayer dollars.”

“The best way for government to improve the quality of life for all Americans is to foster economic growth through lower taxes, reduced regulation and support for the private enterprise system,” he said.

“A growing economy and additional job opportunities will translate into smaller welfare roles and less need for government expenditure to underwrite social programs.”

Esty is more in favor of investments in infrastructure than Roraback, saying, “We need to make good long-term decisions that lay the foundation for economic growth, but we also need to make sure that vital safety nets are in place, especially when folks are struggling.

“It may not be ideal to have to shore up funding for state and local governments, and we must always follow-up to make sure these programs are helping as intended,” she said.

“But there are times when the federal government must take strong actions to ensure that folks can get by and to preserve their shot at the American Dream. In my view, those goals must be how our representatives weigh their choices and determine their actions. Reflexively ideological views on the role of government won’t do when so much is at stake.”

Bush-era tax cuts

Both candidates support closing corporate tax loopholes, and share many similar ideas for reforming the tax code, but they differ on Bush-era era tax cuts.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has used Roraback’s support of the Bush-era tax cuts against him, taking a clip from a debate in Newtown, in which he said, “I think now would be a particularly bad time to let the Bush tax cuts expire.”

But, as Esty said to radio host Ray Dunaway, “We must tackle the budget deficit, but we have to do so in a way that protects the needs of middle class families. That’s why I support ending the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, closing corporate tax loopholes, and eliminating wasteful subsidies for big oil and big agribusiness (the 2012 Farm Bill which passed the Senate last month would be a good start). At the end of the day, budgets should reflect our priorities, and right now middle class families must be the priority of every representative.”