Cut Income Taxes or Kill Them? Connecticut GOP Candidates for Governor Disagree

Republicans hope to recapture the governor’s seat after eight years of Democratic control



The five Republicans in Connecticut’s gubernatorial primary agree on most things, except when it comes to state income tax.


During a final televised debate Wednesday, candidates Bob Stefanowski, a former business executive, and Mark Boughton, mayor of Danbury, defended their proposals to eliminate the state’s income tax. Steve Obsitnik, a technology entrepreneur, called the proposals “nonsense,” while David Stemerman, a former hedge-fund manager, said the state needs a “realistic plan.”


“You have a moral obligation to tell voters how to do it,” said candidate Tim Herbst, the former first selectman of Trumbull. “They haven’t told us how they would do it.”


Mr. Stefanowski said the state could absorb the revenue loss of eliminating the state income tax, which was instituted in 1991, by cutting expenses and renegotiating contracts with state employees.


“The state lived perfectly fine without a state income tax,” he said.


The five candidates will square off in the GOP primary Tuesday. The winner will face the victor of the Democratic primary, either Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont or Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim.


Republicans have a chance to win the governor’s race in deep-blue Connecticut, thanks in large part to the unpopularity of current Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat who declined to run for a third term. The Cook Political Report rates the race as a tossup.


Members of the GOP in the state are anxious to recapture the governor’s seat after eight years of Democratic control that resulted in two income tax increases and other progressive policy changes, including new gun laws and the abolishment of the death penalty. Democrats hold a slim lead in the state’s House of Representatives and are tied with Republicans in the Senate.


Other than tax policy, the candidates found broad agreement during the debate on local television station WFSB. All oppose highway tolls. They each said they would support whoever wins the primary. And each blamed the state’s weak job market on what they said was a poor business and fiscal climate.


Mr. Obsitnik said the state has a “hostile environment” toward business. Mr. Stemerman said Connecticut can attract employers with good schools, low taxes and its competitive geographic location. Mr. Herbst said the state’s “fiscal volatility” was making neighboring states like New York and Massachusetts more attractive for employers.


And Mr. Boughton, who was endorsed by the Connecticut Republican Party, said state government developed a reputation for being unfriendly to companies.


“When you have that reputation across the United States of America—and, really, across the globe—as being the place not to go, then obviously investment won’t come here,” Mr. Boughton said.


Read the full article on the Wall Street Journal