Realistic policy proposals still lacking in race for Connecticut governor

An editorial that appeared in this space June 1 identified The Day’s priorities for endorsing a Connecticut governor candidate in November; restoring financial stability to state government, economic growth and tax reform.

On Aug. 14, voters chose Republican Robert Stefanowski and Democrat Ned Lamont to be the party nominees. A third candidate, Oz Griebel, is petitioning to get on the ballot as an independent. Griebel’s petition awaits certification by the Secretary of State.

The Day revisited the websites of the three gubernatorial contenders to learn if their positions evolved since June.

Stefanowski’s clearly has. The former venture capitalist has an economic recovery plan endorsed by Dr. Arthur Laffer, who gained fame or, in the case of his critics, infamy as Ronald Reagan’s economic adviser. Laffer instituted trickle-down, supply-side economics as a sacrament in the Republican belief system. His “Laffer Curve” theory equates decreasing taxes with increasing economic growth.

Stefanowski declares Connecticut “in economic free fall” and in “absolute crisis.” On these two points, The Day agrees. Stefanowski identifies the causes as high taxes, unchecked state spending, dysfunctional governance, job losses and population decline.

Stefanowski's fix includes phasing out corporate income and business entity taxes, phasing out the state income tax, eliminating the gift and estate taxes, and reducing spending by zero-based budgeting. Stefanowski applies the Laffer Curve argument that as tax rates fall economic activity rises, revenues increase, and, presto, state financial crisis solved.

That's where The Day and Stefanowski part company. This newspaper is skeptical of the Laffer Curve. Eliminating taxes decreases revenues for government. Stefanowski is silent about the impact of lower revenues on government services. Without a corresponding spending strategy the multiple tax cuts simply wipe out important services. Kansas enacted this approach to disastrous results.

Yet flawed as his plan may be, Stefanowski is due credit for articulating his approach.

Not so with Ned Lamont, the Democrat's website is loaded with the same vapid platitudes that made us cringe when we watched his televised ads during the primary campaign. Lamont's website declares, “A strong economy is a fair economy. An economy that pays a living wage, supports women and people of color in the workplace, and provides everyone with a second chance.”

The Democratic candidate avoids mention of Connecticut's chronic financial problems. He supports organized labor, a $15 minimum wage, paid family and medical leave and equal pay. None of those ideas has anything to do with stabilizing the state's budget. And imposing more burdens on business without also fixing the fundamental problem of fiscal instability is a bad combination.

On Thursday, Lamont floated a proposal for property tax relief. He would gradually restore the property tax credit, stripped during the Malloy administration, and extend credits to senior citizen renters. Again tax cuts are nice, but Connecticut needs a budget fix.

Then there is Oz Griebel, the former head of the MetroHartford Alliance of business leaders. As an independent, Griebel should have a base of voter support simply by marketing himself as neither a Trump stooge nor a union lackey. But Griebel needs to prove he can gain the financial backing to get his message out. So far he is falling short.

He also needs a message, one that offers a detailed roadmap that gives voters a reason not to simply surrender to the status quo of a D or R.

Sadly, there is little strategy on Griebel's website. Griebel promises to “identify and put into action an efficient and fair plan for raising the appropriate revenue to achieve the state's agreed-upon policy goals.”

Come on, Oz. That drivel makes Lamont look like a visionary. Surely you must have some concrete ideas to spur economic growth, stabilize the budget, and address unfunded pension liabilities.

Connecticut is on the cusp of an economic revival with expanding military industrial manufacturing, biotech business and clean energy development of fuel cells and wind power. But it risks squandering those opportunities without addressing the present structural imbalance between government revenues and expenses.

None of the three gubernatorial candidates has yet convinced us they are up to the challenge of driving the legislature to a realistic corrective course for Connecticut. It is up to the voters, and the press, to keep insisting that one of them rises to meet these pressing demands.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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