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From income tax critic to chief tax collector

Word that Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, has tapped a Republican — Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton — to be his next tax commissioner is a nice bipartisan gesture in today’s hyper-partisan political environment.

It is also sort of an odd pick.

There is no question that Boughton, 56, is up to the job to serve as the commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services. For two decades Boughton has run a city of 85,000 people, elected 10 times. That level of experience should make him more than qualified to become Connecticut’s chief tax collector.

But an odd choice because the last time Boughton ran for governor (and he has run for governor a lot) he campaigned on a pledge to do away with the primary form of taxation that he will soon be obligated to collect — the state income tax.

“It is time to do away with the state income tax,” stated Boughton when he was seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2018. “I have a phased plan to remake state government and lower the income tax until it is completely eliminated.”

We doubted if Boughton’s heart was ever in that pledge. A moderate and political pragmatist, he knows governments need revenue to run. He has signed many Danbury budgets into law that raised property taxes. But in 2018 he was facing a primary challenge from Bob Stefanowski, who had made as the central plank of his platform elimination of the income tax. Boughton had to keep up.

Stefanowski’s pledge wasn’t realistic, but it was politically effective, at least in a Republican primary, which Stefanowski won. The end of the story, of course, is that Stefanowski lost in the general election to the man who will now be Boughton’s new boss — Gov. Lamont.

Boughton also unsuccessfully sought the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2010 and 2014. His selection as tax commissioner was first reported by Kevin Rennie in his Daily Ructions blog and confirmed by the Connecticut Mirror.

But while Boughton campaigned against taxes, he also has the experience of having lived off them, as a state representative, long-serving mayor and now, it appears, a commissioner.

Boughton has the executive government experience that Lamont, a businessman before his election, lacked. Rennie reports that Lamont has sought his counsel. Now Boughton can help Lamont pay the bills by making sure everyone pays up.

 

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 Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. 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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