From the Cheshire Herald Newspaper, 7/12/2018: "Battle of Opposites as Fishbein, Fontaine Vie for 90th District Seat"
Over the past few years, Dan Fontaine has watched as members of both the Republican and Democratic parties have debated one another over Connecticut’s budget issues.
What Fontaine realized was that none of the state legislators were talking about issues he believes to be important, such as reducing the tax burden on the middle class or having the wealthy pay more to the state.
This year, Fontaine, a 35-yearold co-owner of a software development company, is hoping to help make his preferred changes in state policy a reality. He is running for the state House of Representatives 90th District seat, which covers areas of Wallingford and Cheshire. Fontaine, who previously canvassed for the Working Families Party, is running against first-term Republican Representative Craig Fishbein.
“We need to be honest about the situation we’re in,” stated Fontaine. “We need to be ready to fight for the living standards the working middle class people have been able to achieve in this state, because (they) are very much under attack.”
Fishbein, an attorney with Fishbein Law Firm LLC, serves on the public safety, commerce, and energy and technology committees, and is also a member of the Conservative Caucus. During his first term in office, Fishbein has been criticized for voting against numerous proposals. However, the Wallingford resident stands behind his votes and states that, most times, his stances on issues have been misconstrued.
As an example, Fishbein pointed to his opposition to the “move over”
law, which allows local authorities to impose fines on motorists who do
not move over for emergency vehicles. One of the bills set out to change
the language regarding the maximum fine that could be levied, from “up
to $1,500” to “up to $2,500.” Fishbein voted against the changes
because it did not increase the minimum fee. As a result of his vote,
Fishbein said, he has been painted as someone who opposes the law in its
“How do you deal with that?” he asked. “All I can know is that, in my heart, I know I did the right thing.”
Both Fontaine and Fishbein admit that they are opposites of one another. Fontaine wants to see the state’s minimum wage increased to $15 and for state colleges to be offered tuition-free. He said he was motivated to engage in the political process during the most recent presidential election by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who wanted to ensure health care access for the general public and to make college affordable.
“Connecticut’s really a microcosm of what’s going on in the broader United States,” Fontaine said. “We are the wealthiest state, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, and we can’t seem to do things that we were able to do 30 to 40 years ago.”
Fontaine argues that, in order to afford a basic apartment and live in Wallingford, the minimum household income needs to be $24 per hour. If two adults are working minimum-wage jobs, Fontaine argues, they cannot afford the apartment. If, however, the minimum wage is increased, that same family could reside Wallingford.
“Some of that value is lost to inflation but, overall, they end up substantially ahead,” Fontaine said. “For most people, there hasn’t been a huge inflationary impact from increasing the minimum wage. We just haven’t seen it.”
Fishbein, on the other hand, believes the minimum wage “should be repealed.” He said that, as a result of the previous minimum wage increases, two of his employees at his law firm were replaced by one part-time staff member. Fishbein added that he cannot afford to hire other employees unless he raises his fees.
“I think the fair market should determine wages,” Fishbein said. “…
What people don’t understand— who are proponents of that (the minimum
wage)—is things that they buy are then going to cost more, so then it’s
cyclical. They’re going to say, ‘My standard of living is such that I
need more.’ It just doesn’t make sense.”
Fishbein added that individuals who support a minimum wage that is a “liveable” wage are in favor of mediocrity in the workforce.
“When you say to someone the government is going to mandate you’re paid a living wage, on some level, you’re supporting
mediocrity,” he said. “When people are being paid what they are worth, I would think that people tend to work a little harder.”
To provide tuition-free schools, Fontaine believes that not only should state officials deal with “administrative bloat” at state colleges, but that the Connecticut’s wealthiest residents should be taxed more.
“If we can succeed in getting more tax revenue out of the wealthiest people, we can afford to do these things,” Fontaine said.
“We have the wealth here. We’re just not making use of the resources
that we have.”
Fontaine insists that the state’s wealthiest have been protected— taxed less than the working middle class for fear that they will leave the state.
“There’s a lot of money behind pushing this narrative that you can’t do anything in terms of taxes on wealthy people because they’ll leave. The data doesn’t bear that out,” he said.
Fishbein disagrees and states that, oftentimes it is “the rich” who are the ones who creating jobs. Increasing their taxes, he believes, will definitely result in them leaving the state.
“Why do we penalize the risktakers and entrepreneurs for being risk takers and entrepreneurs?” Fishbein asked. “Am I jealous for people who make a lot of money? Yeah, but do I try and harm them? No.”
To address the high cost of state colleges, Fishbein said he believes
universities should act as “enterprise funds,” with school
administrations determining how many students are admitted based on
standards such as salary and tuition costs, as well as school size.
“The current system is just wrong,” he said.