Lamont and Stefanowski Compared: Who can save our state?

Democrat Ned Lamont, left, looks on as Republican Bob Stefanowski speaks in the first gubernatorial debate of the campaign between the two candidates the Garde Arts Center on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, in New London, Conn. (Sarah Gordon/The Day via AP)

It’s no secret that Connecticut has suffered from years of mismanagement. Under the Malloy administration, we’ve seen droves of people leaving the state, stagnant growth and chronic deficits. This election, we have a chance to change direction, but only if we make the right choices. So, let’s examine the economic plans of the two major candidates running to replace Malloy: Ned Lamont and Bob Stefanowski.

Before we begin, let’s take a closer look at Connecticut’s economic situation. Our state suffers from a chronic spending problem. The state government has grown by 87 percent since 1990, yet the economy only grew a mere 48 percent over that same period. Much of this increased spending is the result of bad contracts made with the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC). For years, politicians have given in to demands made by state employee unions, and consequently, taxpayers are stuck paying for exorbitant salaries and benefits. When comparing salary plus benefit packages, the average Connecticut state employee made anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 more than his/her private sector counterpart. However, the worst part of these deals comes in the form of a massive unfunded pension crisis. According to a 2017 study, only 18 percent of Connecticut state employee pensions are funded, with $127.7 billion in liabilities . In other words, unless major reforms are made, many state workers will never see the money they put into the system.

In order to pay for this government expansion, taxes have been raised, yet Connecticut still faces constant deficits and state worker packages remain unaffordable. Moreover, Connecticut can’t afford another tax increase. According to a 2016 Forbes article, we are the second most taxed state in the country. People and businesses know this, and many leave as soon as they get the opportunity.

In short, it’s clear that the next governor will need to cut spending and taxes drastically, but Lamont isn’t prepared to make sweeping reforms. Although he has proposed reducing the property tax for middle class families, which is a good first step, he also plans to raise other taxes to balance the budget. He has suggested increasing the vehicle tax, tolls and the income tax on the wealthy. However, none of these measures will close the deficit; they will only encourage residents to move to where taxes are lower. Moreover, his plans to cut spending are not meaningful. Although he has suggested small reforms like cutting spending on the Department of Corrections, he ignores the much larger obligations facing the state, like the SEBAC contract. Instead, Lamont has been endorsed by several of the state’s unions and is broadly sympathetic to their interests.

Bob Stefanowski, on the other hand, understands the need for massive changes and has put forward a bold agenda to fix the state. He wants to abolish the estate tax, gift tax and corporate income tax, which don’t contribute much revenue but are major reasons for the exodus of people leaving Connecticut. Stefanowski also wants to abolish the income tax. This measure probably won’t pass, however, by fighting for this goal he is likely to at least get an income tax cut, which is desperately needed. On spending, Mr. Stefanowski is equally as bold. For example, he supports a zero-based budgeting policy, which will force government agencies to justify their entire budget (and by extension, their purpose and effectiveness) rather than just their requested spending increases. Additionally, Stefanowski supports privatization to lower costs. Most importantly, Bob Stefanowski has vowed to renegotiate the SEBAC contract. Among his cost-reducing ideas are introducing health insurance copays, limiting cost of living increases for pensions and placing caps on other employee benefits. With these reforms, Connecticut has a shot at getting its finances in order and rebuilding the economy.

Our state is at a crossroads. After eight years of a Democratic governor and several decades of Democratic rule in the state house, our state is failing economically. This November, we can change the tide by electing a governor with free market and fiscally responsible solutions, or we can choose to elect the next Dan Malloy, who will try the same failed ideas and expect different results. The choice is ours.


Jacob Marie is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at jacob.marie@uconn.com.