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Advice to GOP: Muzzle Stefanowski

I think I can speak for many of the people who voted for Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, especially here in blue Connecticut, that we don't want to hear from her for a long time.

Indeed, I felt a pit in my stomach not long ago when some news headline teased a possible Clinton candidacy in 2020. What a relief to know that's not true.

I suspect many rank-and-file Republicans might feel that way about their losing candidate for Connecticut governor in 2018, a spectacular failure that party leaders still don't seem willing to address, nostalgic even for a gubernatorial campaign so arrogant, it snubbed the media.

Bob Stefanowski, who remained appropriately out of sight after losing to Gov. Ned Lamont, has surfaced recently to revive his fantasies about how he would solve the state's budget crisis, a broad remedy with no particular prescription, not a single proposed cut in spending or additional revenue stream that might save the state from the approaching doomsday.

He promised on the campaign trail to study the budget after the election and come up with all the necessary savings. He hasn't mentioned any in his new post-losing appearances, so I am guessing he skipped all that hard work of finding savings after he didn't win.

I couldn't help but groan when I saw Stefanowski on television recently, bragging how he got 46 percent of the vote. Sorry, sir, but you lost and there are not really footnotes to that.

It's time to move on; maybe find another job charging desperate borrowers usurious lending rates?

The unsuccessful candidate would do his party in Connecticut a world of good if he would disappear from the unfolding debate over the state's fiscal crisis. After all, there were successful Republicans on the ballot last fall, and they deserve the spotlight to talk about the necessary solutions to the state's many problems.

Meanwhile, Gov. Lamont is proving to be the deal-making, aisle-crossing pragmatist he promised to be on the campaign trail. He's trying to, anyway. So far, he feels to me like a breath of fresh air in Hartford. He hardly ever floats a proposal or an idea without adding the caveat: let me know if you have a better idea.

Lamont told The Day's Editorial Board this week that he outlined his objectives in his budget address but is prepared to negotiate with legislators. He chose, for instance, to widen the sales tax base instead of suggesting a rate increase, because he believes it would be forward thinking, as the economy evolves in a digital, service-oriented future.

But he adds a straight increase may be easier and more politically palatable.

He says he has hired efficiency consultants and will look at strategic savings as the state bureaucracy can move more decisively into a leaner digital future.

As for his evolving position on tolls and his most recent proposal to include cars, the governor said he has come to realize, since the campaign, that a legal decision on Rhode Island's trucks-only tolls is not yet at hand. Planning on trucks-only tolls, until that legal question is resolved, would not give Connecticut the certain revenue it needs to begin necessary transportation infrastructure repair, he says.

I wish Connecticut Republicans would understand they would need to prove the governor's new position on tolls had actually been the plan all along, in order to call it a lie. Instead of name-calling, they should address how they would finance transportation spending without the tolls they so hate.

The governor noted that giving Connecticut cars and frequent commuters discounts could mean out-of-state cars could pay 40 percent of the tolls, or $400 million. That's a lot of out-of-state money to turn your back on.

Speaking of money moving across state lines, Gov. Lamont struck me as loyally protective of the golden goose of Fairfield County and wary of new taxes on the rich that would make them consider leaving Connecticut. He noted that 100 rich taxpayers pay 10 percent of all the income tax collected by the state.

He also seems intent on rail improvements and tweaking traffic flow in Fairfield County to put cities there more decisively back into the principal commuting circle of New York City.

It seems to me Republicans and Democrats have the opportunity not seen for a long while to work cooperatively with an open-minded governor who seems to me genuine when he talks about listening, deal-making, compromise and problem-solving.

Boasting about at least some attempts at bipartisan deal-making, it seems to me, would be better for everyone than rehashing the 2018 election.

That seems especially true for Republicans, who need to remind Bob Stefanowski that losing is very different from winning.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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