With Primary Over, Lamont Tries to Define Himself and Stefanowski

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With Primary Over, Lamont Tries to Define Himself and Stefanowski

By Keith M. Phaneuf | ctmirror.org

One day after winning all but one of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Ned Lamont tackled a new and larger challenge: How does he separate himself from the Republican winner, another wealthy business owner with a largely self-funded campaign?

Lamont’s initial response on Aug. 15 was to question the credibility of his opponent’s promise to eliminate the state income tax while comparing him to President Donald Trump. At the same time, Lamont strove to distance himself from Connecticut Democrats’ dangerously unpopular leader, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“Donald Trump said, ‘I’m going to build a wall,’ and Bob Stefanowski said, ‘I’m going to eliminate the income tax,’” Lamont said during a late morning press conference in his New Haven office, one day after easily dispatching his sole challenger for the nomination, Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim.

Hanging unspoken in the air was the phrase, “Sure you are.”

Attacking Stefanowski’s income tax promise

Stefanowski, who defeated four rivals on Aug. 14 to grab the GOP nomination, has been saying since December that, if elected, he would phase out Connecticut’s income tax over eight years, a promise that runs counter to a mountain of empirical evidence that the levy may be irreplaceable.

That evidence, while complex, is fairly straightforward:

  • Income tax receipts now cover 51 percent of General Fund expenses, compared with one-third when the tax was established 27 years ago.
  • No other tax generates enough revenue to cover even Connecticut’s debt costs, which includes pension and retirement health care programs and service on bonded debt.
  • Pension costs are projected to skyrocket over the next 15 years, outpacing — according to one report — the best revenue growth Connecticut has ever received from any major tax.

Stefanowski, who has not released any fiscal analysis of his income tax phase out plan, has said he would find the savings by reducing the state workforce and by reorganizing agencies — despite existing contracts that would bar the next governor from ordering major layoffs until mid-2021.

“Anyone who stands up here today and says you can’t do it isn’t a true leader,” Stefanowski said during an Aug. 6 debate at Fairfield University. “I will rip costs out of the state budget like you have never seen in your life.”

Lamont said he believes that Connecticut voters have come to understand the state’s pension mess stems from more than 70 years of insufficient savings by governors and legislatures, and will no longer be duped by too-good-to-be-true promises.

“I think they’ve been lied to by the politicians in this state for many, many, many decades,” Lamont said on Aug. 15.

The income tax yields almost five times the entire $2 billion Education Cost Sharing grant program Connecticut uses to fund local school districts.

If the income tax goes away, or is drastically cut, education will be gutted and property tax rates will shoot upward, Lamont said, adding that he would keep income tax rates stable while investing in schools and municipal aid.

“How does (eliminating the income tax) bring our cities back to life?” he asked. “How does that bring young people back here? We have two very different visions of where we need to go.”

Lamont also said he would appeal to labor unions, the business community, and others who understand the stakes of Stefanowski’s proposal.

Former Connecticut AFL-CIO leader John W. Olsen, who also is a former Democratic state chair, said on Aug. 14 that voters would turn to the candidate with realistic, achievable solutions.

“Everybody’s been blaming, and nobody’s been solving problems,” he said…TO READ MORE CLICK HERE




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August 22, 2018

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