At a meeting with the Spanish American Merchant Association Friday morning, Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley addressed the concerns of the Hartford small business owners—including the city’s shifting tax burden and overwhelming crime problem.

Stanley Gutt, a local landlord for the last 30 years, expressed concerns that tax-exempt organizations like schools, churches, and hospitals have been expanding, eliminating taxable properties in town and shifting the burden to small businesses and property owners.

“These are good organizations and we need them,” he told Foley, “but every day the tax burden in this city is falling on fewer and fewer people.”

Foley agreed with Gutt’s assessment and suggested that increasing the number of local jobs would help alleviate taxes for small businesses.

“I’m going to make sure there are more jobs in the inner cities and they aren’t all just going to our suburbs and other places where jobs have migrated,” he said. “If you get the economy going, there are more people with income to pay rent, to purchase homes and you build up the tax base in the inner city.”

Foley also indicated that he would work to get rid of the Business Entity tax, a $250 fee businesses pay annually, which he said kills jobs and hurts small businesses.

As it applies to small businesses, his Democratic opponent, Dan Malloy, said he also agrees with phasing out the tax. He noted that it doesn’t make sense to charge a small business the same fee as a billion dollar corporation.

But the tax generated $31.3 million in revenue for the state last year, and Malloy pointed out that the state has become somewhat dependent on the funds. While a proposal by the legislature’s Democratic-majority to eliminate a portion of the tax was passed both the House and the Senate, it was vetoed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell

Crime was another major concern for the business owners. Gutt noted that the city has seen two fatal shootings in the past two weeks.

“Crime in this city is out of hand,” he said, adding that while the police are doing their jobs, they are overwhelmed and frustrated along with Hartford residents.

Gutt praised the candidate for his continued support of Connecticut’s death penalty and wanted to know if Foley would work for harsher punishments for repeat offenders.

Foley took the opportunity to criticize Malloy’s stance on the death penalty.

“When over 60 percent of the citizens of Connecticut support the death penalty, that he would have the gall to say that if he’s elected governor he will sign a bill to repeal the death penalty . . .” he said, shaking his head. He went on to call Malloy’s stance “pretty arrogant.”

But Foley said he didn’t believe harsher prison sentences were the answer to Hartford’s crime problem, noting that the state currently has about 18,500 people incarcerated – twice as many as it had 15 years ago.

“So a lot of people are locked up right now but crime in our inner cities is more likely to be solved by jobs and improving our inner city schools than by locking more people up,” he said. “If you have an 18-year-old kid who’s getting involved with criminal behavior and you lock him up, it’s more likely to turn him into a career criminal.”

Malloy also said that reducing inner city crime would require a more holistic approach than just tacking on more prison time for repeat offenders. He outlined his views on crime reduction on his public safety policy released on Sept. 23.

Like Foley, he said that successfully reintegrating offenders into society after they complete their prison sentences was an important step in reducing repeat criminals.

But Malloy said city police departments don’t receive enough cooperation from the people they protect and need to make more allies within the communities.

“We need to create a culture where high levels of crime are no longer acceptable,” he said.