Race for 119th: Gettinger focuses on prioritized spending, fixing 8-30g

When Ben Gettinger served on the Milford Planning and Zoning Board, he learned a lot about the 8-30g affordable housing law that he hopes to change if he’s elected to represent the 119th district.

Gettinger, a Democrat, is challenging Republican incumbent Pam Staneski for the seat.

Milford’s representatives in Hartford have been trying for years to tweak the affordable housing law that has led to numerous housing applications in Milford and a number of approvals for developments that residents often view as too dense for the area.

Other politicians in Milford have said that 8-30g is difficult to change because of the numerous groups that lobby in favor of it.

“But that’s not a good excuse,” Gettinger said.

During his time on the Planning and Zoning Board, Gettinger said he voted against most of the 8-30g proposals that went before the board.

“We always thought that we were doing the right thing and that a judge would agree,” he said.

He argues that opposition to affordable housing from neighbors and other residents wasn’t based on income levels but rather on density. “It’s always the density,” Gettinger said.

He said being a good representative is about getting people to vote with you, convincing them to come around to your thinking.

He said his background as a lawyer, specifically a divorce attorney, gives him the skills he will need to get work done in Hartford.

“If you spend time fighting and pointing fingers, you just waste time and you’ll find yourself in the same place you started,” Gettinger said.

The key is negotiating and finding middle ground, he said.

Gettinger describes himself as a middle of the road politician, and he thinks it’s almost unrealistic to have party labels at the local level.

“We’re all looking for the same things,” he said, “starting with lower taxes.”

Gettinger says the state spends too much money on programs and initiatives that are not essential to people’s daily lives, and therefore spending has to be prioritized. There needs to be more tax breaks for businesses, and a more concerted effort to keep small businesses in Connecticut, he said.

He wants to see how the recent Sikorsky deal plays out. If it proves worthwhile, Gettinger believes that type of offer needs to be extended to other businesses.

Republican candidate for the 118th district Rick Varrone recently said he thinks the Sikorsky deal was “upside down.” Instead of the state-approved special tax breaks and grants to keep the company in the state, Varrone believes legislators should focus on creating and maintaining an environment that is conducive for businesses who want to stay here.

But Gettinger said he thinks the state has to be proactive in terms of dealing with the companies that it wants here. Not every business merits some kind of deal, he said.

“It needs to make sense,” he said.

In general, he describes himself as “a moderate.” “I don’t want to decimate state government but at the same time I don’t want it to be too big or overreaching either,” he said. “I agree with Lincoln, who once said, ‘The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people only what they cannot do better themselves, and no more.’ And, no more.”

Gettinger said that if he’s elected, he will pursue matters that affect people’s everyday lives, primarily taxes. He said it’s too late to repeal the state income tax, but he said responsibly growing businesses should put the state in a position to lower taxes.

And locally, he will focus on issues that affect his district, including flooding along the shoreline that state funds might help to alleviate.

Gettinger earned his B.A. in economics at the University of Connecticut and his J.D. from Quinnipiac Law. He has been recognized as one of the top young lawyers in Connecticut.