By Linda Tishler Levinson
In the “push-me, pull-you” world of Connecticut politics, both parties claim they know what Latino voters want going into the upcoming General Assembly, U.S. House and U.S. Senate races taking place in November. The Democrats say it’s jobs and immigration while the Republicans are focusing on home ownership and lower taxes.
Latinos made up 8 percent of the eligible voters in 2010, the most recent statistics available, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Democrats highlight immigration even though a new USA Today/Gallup poll of Latino voters reveals that jobs and healthcare are more important issues than immigration policies.
Pat O’Neil, communications director for the Connecticut House Republicans, said his party is working its approach to Latino voters in this election cycle differently from the Dems. “We had a different approach, a different philosophy,” O’Neil said. “There’s hasn’t worked.”
Now the GOP will spotlight the claim that it has consistently worked for a common-sense approach to budgets that benefits all working families, including Latinos. He said state Republicans advocate keeping taxes down and promote policies that appeal to the middle class.
The state’s Democrats are working to make good policies for the Latino community, according to Jonathan Harris, executive director of the Connecticut Democratic party. Those policies focus on jobs and immigration, Harris said. “We always are the party that has the interest of the Latino community in mind,” he said.
He said the party is working to gain control of the state budget deficit with appropriate funding for education, roads and economic development to promote job growth.
“We’re not picking winners and losers as we believe this budget does.” O’Neil from House Republicans said. “Everyone’s taxes went up.”
But, he said, small business owners were particularly hard hit. The current state deficit will mean fewer services costing more money for people in the state.
He said Republicans advocate small, leaner, more efficient government, which benefits all families. “It’s not one specific issue that we’re trying to promote.”
But then he went on to promote one specific issue: home ownership.
He said the Republicans have promoted the Live Here, Learn Here program, which makes it easier for those who attend college in-state to buy homes and settle in Connecticut. The goal, O’Neill said, is to make it easier for those students to purchase a home in the state.
The program will allow some who graduate from a public higher education institution or vocational-technical school beginning in 2014 to choose to have up to $2,500 per year of their state income tax liability be set aside in a first-time home buyer account for the down payment of a first home in the state. They would then have to live in the state for a minimum of five years.
Among state legislation the Democrats have worked on that is of particular interest to the Latino community, is raising the age for juveniles involved with the justice system from 16 to 18, Harris said. The legislation would move more Latinos out of the adult correction system.
By Linda Tishler Levinson