Will candidates for governor release their tax returns?

Now that the Connecticut gubernatorial race has cleared the primary stage, it is time for the candidates on the November ballot to show voters their tax returns.

This tradition, locally and nationally, goes back decades but was upended a bit in 2016 when presidential candidate Donald Trump refused to release his returns.

I was planning to ask the campaigns of all four candidates who have so far secured a place on the ballot for Connecticut governor about their plans to release their returns. Alas, I didn't get to ask, since none of them responded to phone messages and emails this week.

Something I've said?

Presumably they will sooner or later be asked in a prominent public setting, as the debate season unfolds.

Candidates in Connecticut have balked in the past about releasing returns but, in the end, have generally released.

Ned Lamont, this year's Democratic candidate for governor, for instance, was a little slow releasing when running for one of Connecticut's Senate seats in 2006. But after some needling by opponent Sen. Joe Lieberman during a debate in the primary, Lamont relented.

Lamont's spokesman at the time accused Lieberman, who had released five years of tax returns, of playing "gotcha politics" and called the whole issue "B.S." Here's hoping Lamont is a little more transparent at the outset in this race.

Who knows how Republican Bob Stefanowski, "Payday Bob" to those shocked by his time running a payday loan sharking business, will respond to a request to produce his income tax, given his propensity to revere all things Trump. Maybe that includes the president's defiance of the tradition of transparency of a candidate's personal finances.

Something tells me Stefanowski, who says he doesn't believe in the minimum wage, is not going to want to be forthcoming about how he makes his money, income far above the realm of minimum wage earners, and what taxes he pays.

Another reluctant releaser was Republican Thomas C. Foley in his 2014 gubernatorial campaign against Gov. Dannel Malloy. In the end, Foley eventually released summaries of tax returns for four years but not his state income tax returns, charitable contributions or taxes on income from partnerships and certain types of investments.

It turns out Foley, a wealthy candidate who spent $11 million on his 2010 bid to be governor, essentially paid no federal income tax for three years because of reported losses on investments.

Of course, no candidate who paid no federal income tax for three years, no matter how proper the calculations, would want to explain that to voters.

Lamont, another rich self-funding candidate, might have been shy about releasing his returns in 2006, not because he paid so little in taxes but because he paid so much. The tax information he did release indicated that much more of the income came from investments other than the cable television business he makes the centerpiece of his pitch as being a successful businessman.

Lamont, who comes from a wealthy family, earned $2.8 million in 2005, paying $621,213 in net federal income taxes and $209,006 in state income taxes.

Lamont reported a salary of $546,000 from his cable business, $1.7 million in capital gains income, $275,200 in dividend income and $225,678 in income from investment partnerships.

The candidates apparently aren't interested in talking to me. But if you see them, be sure and ask when they plan to release their returns or find out if they plan to pull a Trump on this longstanding tradition.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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