GOP candidates can't explain how a Gov. Stefanowski would end the income tax

Someone told me that the talking points being suggested by the Connecticut Republican establishment, to help GOP candidates explain Bob Stefanowski's inexplicable promise to end the state income tax within eight years, is to call the idea "aspirational."

In other words, it's something the state can aspire to, even if it may never happen.

I'm not sure it's true that those are official talking points. Curiously, they would belie the actual promise of gubernatorial candidate Stefanowski, who doesn't hedge at all about being able to eliminate a tax that provides half the state's revenue.

He never wavers on the notion that it is possible, even though he admits he has no idea how it would be accomplished until he gets into office and starts working on the budget.

In chatting with GOP candidates from southeastern Connecticut this week about their impressions of Stefanowski's promise to end the income tax, none could explain how it would happen. Most sounded generally skeptical but, to a person, they all suggested it was a noble goal.

None used the word aspirational but that was the gist of their combined responses.

Rep. Melissa Ziobron of East Haddam, who is running against Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, a Democrat, for the 33rd Senate District seat, suggested that there must be a Stefanowski plan in place for eliminating the tax. She's been too busy with her own campaign, though, to read it all, she added.

"I have not read his complete plan," she said, adding the aspirational spin: "It's a laudable goal to think about doing it over the course of a long time."

Like many of the others, Ziobron said she didn't realize the gubernatorial candidate's specific promise is to completely eliminate the tax in eight years.

State Sen. Paul Formica of East Lyme, being challenged for his bid to retain his 20th District seat by Democrat Martha Marx of New London, came the closest to suggesting the emperor has no clothes, but stopped short of admitting it would be impossible to eliminate the income tax that generates some $10 billion.

"It's a daunting task, there is no question about it. I don't know whether it is possible in eight years or possible at all," Formica said.

But the East Lyme Republican, who served last session as co-chairman of the Appropriations Committee, suggested that, although he has no insider knowledge, he believes Stefanowski will end up producing a specific plan for it over the course of the campaign.

Formica also added some aspirational spin: "I think it's a noble goal, and I would like to work toward that."

John Scott of Groton, who is trying to win back his 40th District seat from Rep. Christine Conley, like Formica shared his doubts whether it is possible to eliminate the income tax, saying, "it's a lot of money to have to come up with. ... I don't know without seeing a plan if it is possible."

But, he, too, had some aspirational spin: "I think a variation of the idea will work, as long as we can get a change in leadership in Hartford."

I never heard back from Shaun Mastroianni of Stonington, the Republican who is facing off with Stonington Selectman Kate Rotella, a Democrat, for the House seat in the 43rd District.

Sen. Heather Somers, who is being challenged in her re-election bid in the 18th District by Air Force veteran and Connecticut National Guard Lt. Col. Bob Statchen, said she hasn't studied Stefanowski's plan to achieve the elimination of the income tax, saying she thinks there is one.

"I would have to see the rest of his plan, to see how he gets there," said the senator from Groton, who added, with an aspirational twist, that cutting taxes can stimulate the economy.

Is it just me, or is it discouraging to see so many Connecticut Republicans gather around an obvious deceit now at the center of their party's ambitions this campaign season?

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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