The three Republican candidates for governor with spots on the August primary ballot all provided similar ideas on how to jumpstart Connecticut’s economy and to balance the state budget.
Perhaps the boldest idea of them all is Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton’s proposal to eliminate the state income tax over a period of 10 years.
He said the lack of an income tax once made Connecticut the envy of its neighbors, rather than the current punching bag status the state has developed.
“This state was the envy of New England between Boston and New York City when we didn’t have an income tax and it’s why people are leaving,” he said at the Connecticut Technology Council’s Gubernatorial Forum at the Trumbull Marriott.
Tim Herbst, on home turf as the former First Selectman from Trumbull, stopped short of endorsing cutting the income tax but did say he wanted to pursue other tax breaks and phase out the estate tax, as well.
He instead focused on the need to address Connecticut’s ballooning pension obligations which he describes as unsustainable, which he argues will lead to more favorable results in other segments of the economy.
“We need to show the ratings agencies that were are ending budget volatility.” Herbst added, “We need a truly balanced budget that doesn’t rely on gimmicks, one time revenues or smoke and mirrors.”
Westport businessman Steve Obsitnik said he wants to provide tax breaks to existing Connecticut employers who create jobs, while also cutting the estate tax. He said the estate tax drives people out of Connecticut and keeping those people will lead to sustained growth.
On tax breaks, he wants to extend them to more people.
“I don’t care if you’re ESPN, a fancy hedge fund, or an entrepreneur, if you’re committed to Connecticut and you grow the economy I believe you should get a benefit to keep you in Connecticut,” Obsitnik said.
Where members of the audience started to scratch their heads was when the candidates discussed the need for serious investments in infrastructure to the tune of billions of dollars, while at the same cutting overall state spending, and reducing overall revenues by virtue of tax cuts.
Marion Breeze, who handles business development for the company Archive360, directly asked the panel of GOP candidates about how their plans square from a dollars and cents perspective.
“A lot of candidates this morning talked about cutting taxes and reducing government waste and at the same time talking about investing in infrastructure and transportation and in technologies,” Breeze said. “My main concern is understanding from candidates in terms of how they’re going to invest if they’re also cutting taxes at the same time.”
The candidates all went back to their proposals from earlier in the debate, insisting they would lead to growth and more people having more money in their pockets.
The forum did not include former hedge fund manager David Stemerman or former UBS executive Bob Stefanowski. Organizers only invited candidates guaranteed on the ballot through their state conventions, or candidates who have qualified through the petition process.