Democrat Ned Lamont used the first day of school at a New Haven magnet school as the venue to attack Republican Bob Stefanowski over his plan to cut the income tax.
That plan, Lamont and his teacher union allies say, would amount to the biggest ever cut to education spending the state has ever seen.
"Well, I start by not creating a $9 billion hole which is what elimination of the income tax would do,” Lamont said.
Stefanowski campaigned throughout the Republican gubernatorial primary on a pledge to repeal the income tax, which is the single largest source of revenue for all state spending. The income tax brought in more than $9 billion in revenue last year, accounting for roughly half of Connecticut’s revenues.
Lamont says a tax cut like that could lead to skyrocketing property tax rates because municipalities would be forced to come up with ways to replace the revenue lost.
The Greenwich millionaire said his goals when it comes to education spending and budgeting are modest.
"We start toward the fully funding of ECS,” Lamont said. “We get a budget that's on time so schools like this can out together a budget and they know how many teachers there's going to be."
Fully funding Education Cost Sharing grants, known as ECS which is the formula the state uses to send money directly to cities and towns, would be an upgrade over recent years. School systems have described state funding as a sort of guessing game, not knowing how lawmakers and Gov. Dannel Malloy would spend money on the classroom.
Passing a budget on time is also significant, considering last year it took lawmakers until the end of October to pass a budget after stalemate that lasted the entire summer and into the autumn.
In a statement, Stefanowski pledged to “maintain state grants to municipalities,” which could be impossible if he goes through with phasing out the income tax. With less money being collected by the state, that leaves less money for the state to send to cities and towns to support education or any other program for that matter.
NBC Connecticut asked how Stefanowski could achieve flat funding with less revenue but never received a response.
Lamont also wants to cut revenue in the form of property tax cuts and relief, but it’s far less bold than Stefanowski’s plan. Lamont has proposed cutting several hundreds of millions, rather than billions.
Stefanowski said of Lamont’s education initiatives, “His plan won't do us any good if there are no jobs for graduates and no one can afford to live here.”
The first debate in the race for governor is Wednesday night at the University of Saint Joseph. Lamont will be in attendance with petitioning candidate Oz Griebel. Stefanowski has said he does not plan to participate.