Owner of a trucking business and partner in a dog day care, Wes Skorski said he would use his skills as a businessman to give his largely rural district a voice on lowering taxes and health care costs.
Skorski is running to be the first Democrat since 1980 to represent the 55th District in the state House. The district includes Marlborough, Andover, Bolton and Hebron.
A nine-year member of the Marlborough Board of Education, and a single father of two teenagers since his wife died two years ago, Skorski said he is also committed to ensuring all residents have a good education.
The incumbent Rep. Robin Green is not running for re-election. Skorski is running against Republican candidate Stephen Weir. CT Examiner spoke with both candidates to ask them about the same set of issues. Skorski’s answers are printed in full.
CTEx: What would be your key goals if elected?
SKORSKI: My top priority is to help people in the district. I’m not running just to run, or because I lost a race or I’m trying to find an election I can win. Like I showed in my time as chair of the Marlborough Board of Education, I believe in serving others and improving people’s lives.
Second, I believe in continuing to cut taxes and address inflation. It’s become very expensive, and as a businessman, I know how to find savings and improve services.
Third, I’m going to defend women’s rights in Connecticut – from health care to pay to domestic violence. Since my wife passed away two years ago, I’m determined to help create a world where my daughter is treated equally on all fronts like my son is.
CTEx: What needs to be done to make healthcare more affordable and accessible in Connecticut?
SKORSKI: Healthcare isn’t just a right, it’s a necessity. Everyone should have access to healthcare. I think we need to implement every measure possible to reduce the cost. I provide healthcare for my employees, so I see what it costs for private healthcare, and to have people pay $4,000 to $5,000 a month for healthcare for a family – that’s pretty ludicrous.
We need to be able to buy safe, prescription drugs from, let’s say, Canada. We need to get excessive bills under control. A Q-tip or Advil shouldn’t cost $10 in the hospital. We need transparency in billing.
Excessive growth of administrative costs need to stop, both on the hospital and insurance company side.
CTEx: What do you think about the job the state has done balancing its goals for clean and renewable energy with the cost of energy?
SKORSKI: Overall, I think our environmental goals are moderately aggressive, but we can certainly do more. We should be looking at transitioning to green energy, creating more charging stations for electric cars and trucks that are coming in the next decade, and updating our state building codes for the 21st century. These are great goals, and they create jobs – both low-tech labor jobs and also high-tech jobs.
At the same time, everyone gets sticker shock these days when we open our electric bills. I have two teens who don’t know how to turn off a light switch or put on a hoodie when it gets cold.
Incentivizing home energy efficiency and increasing utilization of solar panels can help. And we can push the utility companies to get more efficient themselves.
CTEx: What should be the state’s role in ensuring people have access to affordable housing, and is there any policy that needs to be changed or implemented?
SKORSKI: We have 169 towns and they all have very different opinions on what affordable housing should look like. It’s not a one-size fits all. We have urban areas, we have suburban areas, and bedroom communities.
At the same time, I want to make sure that my children can afford a home later on, and I don’t want them to have to move out of the state because of housing. But I don’t think it’s necessarily the state’s role to dictate and provide housing to residents. We work hard to pay our rent and invest in our houses, so I don’t think the state should necessarily be in the housing business, per se.
To match our current landscape, affordable housing would be mostly single family homes, some duplexes, townhomes, things like that, that are affordable for someone entering the workplace. Local input is important, and working with developers as opposed to having a developer dictate to a town what the housing should look like.
CTEx: How else can the state make life more affordable?
SKORSKI: Primarily now we’re talking about inflation, I think that’s at the top of everyone’s mind. It’s a global issue, national issue, state level issue. There’s no real short-term fixes to it, but I think we can pass immediate measures to lessen the burden.
I would suggest a moratorium on housing revaluations. We were in a bubble, and that might be coming down now with interest rates going up. I would suggest a moratorium on property tax increases until homes can be re-evaluated properly, as well as a moratorium on premium increases for health insurance and electricity rates. Those are huge expenses for most families.
The suspension of the gas tax was needed as gasoline prices spiked. They’re not down where they typically are yet, so we need to continue the gas tax holiday.
Then there’s root causes like supply chain issues, the number of trained workers, the cost of childcare, which has taken many parents out of the job pool.
I met with [U.S. Rep.] Joe Courtney a couple of weeks ago, and we were talking about some of the terrific job training programs we have here for manufacturing and high tech jobs. We really need to get the workforce trained to work on some of these really good, well-paying jobs.
CTEx: What would be your goals for improving education?
SKORSKI: I’ve been on the local board for nine years, and I’m currently chairperson. I also have two teens in the public school system.
The pandemic has been tough on parents, educators, and especially students. In Marlborough, we made it a priority to be open for in-person learning five days a week – one of the few school systems around that did that.
My son did all in person, and my daughter did the hybrid model, so I saw firsthand the difference in outcome from the two approaches, both academically and emotionally. We need to continue to address the losses in academics, and the mental health toll it took on kids throughout the state.
I’d also like to see more of a collaboration between superintendents and the state before programs are rolled out. We have 169 towns with very different educational needs. And the example is the recently rolled out K-3 literacy program. I understand the intentions, and they’re great, but it was meant as a one size fits all solution without achievable timelines or funding.
CTEx: What do you think of the police accountability law passed in 2020, and are there any changes that need to be made?
SKORSKI: I understand the need for it and the origin of it, and I understand most every profession has accountability measures. But when I’m knocking doors, the biggest issue people have with that law is the personal liability aspect of it.
Like any law, it is initially passed then goes through changes. This past legislative session had several bipartisan bills passed to further address juvenile crime. For example, a few weeks ago, we saw the State Police release the annual crime statistics report, and it shows that violent crimes are down in Connecticut, preserving our status as one of the safest states in the country.
Despite that positive news, we have to remain focused on further reducing crime. Even one crime in our community is one too many. My own work van was stolen from my driveway a couple years ago, so I understand the sense of personal violation we experience when we’re victimized.
I am absolutely not in favor of defunding the police. A friend of mine is a local police chief, and we talk about what works and what doesn’t. I’ll continue to have dialogue with people like him, and all sides, to do what works to improve safety in our state.
CTEx: What are your thoughts on marijuana legalization being passed?
SKORSKI: I think decriminalization of marijuana is a step towards social equity, especially in areas with higher arrests for marijuana possession. I think decriminalizing it is the most critical thing. Other countries have legalized marijuana long ago and its use isn’t widespread there.
I do think we need to continue to strengthen the education around its use, especially for our youth so that it doesn’t become widespread and negatively impact their lives in the future.
Where do you see yourself in the Democratic Party?
SKORSKI: I’d say I’m a Joe Courtney Democrat.
I’ve met with him many times this summer and fall, and he’s for working people, he’s for veterans, he’s for seniors. I think it’s time to overcome the extremes in both parties. Most people I meet are common sense moderates. They just want to live a better life for themselves. They want a good place to live, taxes that don’t break the bank, the ability to provide for their children or retire comfortably.
So I guess if that makes me an old-school Democrat who stands with workers and families, that’s what I am. Being in the middle, you can listen to all viewpoints and do what works best for everyone and come to a consensus.