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    Tuesday, April 16, 2024

    Citing Port Authority and State Pier, Stefanowski says Connecticut is paying a 'corruption tax'

    Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, and his lieutenant governor running mate Laura Devlin, hold a press conference to denounce costs of the Connecticut State Pier project Thursday, August 25, 2022 in New London. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, and his lieutenant governor running mate Laura Devlin, hold a press conference to denounce costs of the Connecticut State Pier project Thursday, August 25, 2022 in New London. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    New London ― Against the auditory backdrop of pile drivers at State Pier and next to a visual with bars labeled “$93M” and “over $242M,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski on Thursday slammed Gov. Ned Lamont for lack of transparency and cost overruns on the offshore wind redevelopment project at State Pier.

    Stefanowski said one tax he hasn’t discussed that “you’re going to hear a lot about” between now and November is the “corruption tax.” In addition to the State Pier project, he pointed to the FBI investigating school construction grants, misuse of COVID-19 relief funds in West Haven, and the state’s past COVID-19 testing contract with Sema4, which has financial backing from the health care venture capital firm founded by the governor’s wife, Annie Lamont.

    Stefanowski said the biggest example of the “corruption tax” is the Connecticut Port Authority, which is overseeing the State Pier project. Day columnist David Collins revealed last week that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed six years of port authority records as part of an investigation into the quasi-public agency.

    Stefanowski criticized the project cost increasing from $93 million to more than $242 million. (The latest estimate is actually $255 million.)

    “Anybody want to guess who picks up that overrun? You think it’s Eversource? Of course not,” he said. “You think it’s Ørsted? Of course not. You know who picks it up? You.”

    He called this “disgusting,” saying this money could’ve gone toward education or adding more state troopers. Stefanowski said he would have sat down with Ørsted and Eversource and said, “You’re going to pick up 100% of the overrun and if you don’t, we’re going to find two new partners.” He said the offshore wind deal should be restructured.

    Asked what evidence he had that the cost overrun is due to corruption as opposed to other issues, Stefanowski said it would be easy for the governor to insist it’s not corruption if he answered reporters’ Freedom of Information Act requests.

    “He’s trying to bury those until after the election,” Stefanowski said.

    Ned for CT spokesperson Jake Lewis said within six months of taking office, Lamont “installed new leadership and created strict controls to further improve accountability and transparency” at the port authority. He called the press conference a “sideshow” and “just the latest attempt to distract from Stefanowski’s flailing campaign. The people of Connecticut know Gov. Lamont works for them– none of us know whose payroll Bob Stefanowski is really on.”

    Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, who was also at the press conference, said the public “only gets information after kicking and screaming through FOI requests.”

    Rep. Laura Devlin, R-Fairfield, who is Stefanowkski’s running mate, criticized the port authority board for having “minimal to no maritime experience.”

    Also flanking Stefanowski at the podium were Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton; Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme; Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme; and Sen. Henri Martin, R-Bristol.

    In response to a question from port authority critic and Noank resident Kevin Blacker, Stefanowski said he thinks it’s a conflict of interest that former port authority chairman Scott Bates is still deputy secretary of the state and that he should resign.

    Blacker said after, “I thought it was great that they organized this event to get some attention on something that’s clearly wrong.” He said voters need information on what’s going on at State Pier before the election, and that he would like to hear from Democratic, Green Party and Libertarian candidates as well.

    Stefanowski said his focus has been on the economy but when Lamont “makes massive mistakes” it’s his duty to point them out. The Republican candidate started the press conference by saying he was “very, very pleased earlier this week to see that Governor Lamont has finally, finally admitted he’s raised taxes.”

    In a news briefing Tuesday, Republican-American reporter Paul Hughes pushed back on a tweet from Lamont’s campaign account that said he was the “first governor in 30 years to not raise taxes,” pointing to how Lamont increased the digital tax and broadened the sales tax.

    The governor said that unlike former governors Dan Malloy, Jodi Rell and John Rowland, he hasn’t raised the income tax rate. He said about the tweet, “I don’t know what that said, but I can tell you we’re the first governor in 40 years not to raise tax rates, and you know what? We’re sticking to that. We’re holding the line.”

    The governor referred to other tax increases as “adjustments.”

    “Were there some other adjustments along the way? I think there were,” Lamont said. “You mentioned online sales; we did apply the sales tax to that. I thought it was fundamentally unfair that restaurants and retail stores had to pay a sales tax and you could buy it on Amazon tax-free, so we did do some adjustments.”

    Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include a reaction from the Lamont campaign.


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