Campus correspondent Andrew Miano interviewed Libertarian nominee for governor of Connecticut Rod Hanscomb over the phone on Thursday, March 22, 2018. Hanscomb addressed state spending, government deregulation, marijuana and his vision for Connecticut. The full transcript of the interview follows.
Andrew Miano: A member of the Libertarian party has never won statewide office in Connecticut. What makes you believe you’ll be able to win the office of governor in 2018?
Rod Hanscomb: Well, honestly Andrew, in order to win we’d have to have a high voter turnout. I’m not oblivious to the fact because I’ve been involved in some local races also running Libertarian candidates – in races where we did a lot of work and the town could really use some change. I mean, there’s a reason why the two big parties have such enormous control in the country. And a lot of it has to do with belief – belief that a third party or an independent candidate could win. But all we could do is work as hard as possible and get the message out there as much as possible, and then the rest, sometimes, is just out of your hands.
The big thing, once again, is going to be the importance of the voter turnout. In a state like our state, you hear about in the news so much that we have some slight population loss and don’t have economic growth nearly like other states do, and with the amount of discontent that’s out there, you hope that there’s going to be a big voter turnout this November, but once again, we’ll see when November rolls around.
In regards to why I believe we can win, the presidential race showed us that the country is ready for outsiders. Not just Donald Trump’s performance, but Bernie Sanders’ also. This current political climate, if coupled with high voter turnout, is our pathway to success.
Miano: Moving on to policy, you’ve said that as governor you would cut state spending greatly. With public education, state pensions and Medicaid taking up a large portion of the budget, which state programs and entitlements do you plan on eliminating or cutting?
Hanscomb: As far as eliminating, realistically you’re not going to go in there and start slashing everything; you have to work with the legislature. But, everybody knows right now that we’re on a path that’s not going to lead to growth and we have to change something. I mean, the number one thing as a Libertarian is we’re not enormous proponents of a lot of the welfare programs that are out there. About 20 percent of the state spending goes to social services and welfare. We’re at a point now where our economy is almost in full employment with only 4 percent unemployment.
There are still so many people who are caught up in welfare and public assistance, who are caught up in it because the bar is set low. If you keep your income under a certain level, your benefits keep coming. But there’s a point at which this just isn’t working, so that would probably be one of our main focuses. The other thing that people don’t realize is that our second biggest category of spending is interest on debt. So, the state has $60 billion in debt, we’ve spent $2.7 billion in 2017 just to pay the interest on the debt. Now that ties in to when we implemented income tax in 1991, because before that we did not have income tax like nine other states do not today, but once we implemented income tax the state revenues went up, over this period, they went up $190 billion.
But we didn’t spend $190 billion, we spent $250 billion. And that’s how all of this ties in to fiscal responsibility and not spending so much money on so many programs. And just like anything else, government needs to be as small and as efficient as possible, just like the private sector has to be because it is a very competitive landscape. Our revenue per individual is way higher than the national average and is just right under New York for most in the country and we need to just be way more efficient on our spending and start looking at all these programs out there and getting these costs down.
Miano: Is it safe to say you’re a proponent of eliminating the state income tax?
Hanscomb: I am 100 percent, actually.
Miano: You have experience as an entrepreneur and have started two successful businesses out of state. What have you learned from being a business owner that would help you bring business back to Connecticut?
Hanscomb: Well, as far as being a business owner, I worked in businesses in Texas and California and Washington state and then came back to Connecticut. A perfect example is just the business I was in, which is the heating and air conditioning business. And the heating and air conditioning business in Connecticut, for instance, has a licensing law, no other state in the country does this, and in that business and in the plumbing business, all of your employees have to go through the state certification process in order to get licensed.
This was all due to union influence. It completely handcuffs the company from being able to hire people from out-of-state to grow their business. It hurts profitability – you’re fighting over the small labor pool, which is being restricted. And that’s just endemic throughout Connecticut business; the amount of regulations in every business is way higher than national averages. Look at Texas, which is a high growth state: they take pride in being a very low regulation state.
All regulations do is they just start slowing business down, and so many of these regulations aren’t for consumer protection; they’re to protect certain special interests or certain voter block interests out there and are not helping our economy.
I can add to that my perspective of living in Texas, a high growth state, and California and especially Washington, which is number one. Washington, when you look at it, they have no income tax, there’s no yearly car tax and property taxes are close to a third of what they are in Connecticut. And it’s not just me saying that.
Anyone can go to Zillow and look at a house in Seattle versus a house in Stamford and see what the property taxes are. And also, Forbes just came out with their list of 10 fastest growing cities in America, and nine of those 10 cities are in states that do not have an income tax. Yet only nine states don’t have income tax, so it’s highly disproportional [sic] success that businesses are having, that cities with their growth are having in states without the income tax. So, yes I would like to change that model, absolutely.
Miano: In terms of education, you’ve laid out a plan to lower the cost of primary and secondary schooling, but now let’s talk about higher education. Given the recent funding reductions to the University of Connecticut and the contentious debate surrounding the consolidation of state universities, what do you believe needs to be done to improve and protect higher education in Connecticut?
Hanscomb: As far as the cost and the quality of higher education in Connecticut, I’d like to give credit where credit is due. I think Connecticut’s done a fantastic job. UConn, if you look at the facilities and the reputation it has… my nephew is a student at UConn Storrs and he raves about the quality of education and the facilities and the programs.
And when you look at the cost of what it is to get a fantastic education at UConn compared to what private schools are doing, honestly I think the state has done an excellent job and I don’t know if there’s a whole bunch extra that we do need to do. Investing in the students is an enormous thing, but the second thing is you want them to stay in the state afterwards. I think that’s that major concentration more than anything.
You want those great opportunities to be here in this state, and we don’t want them to go to the high growth cities like Seattle or Austin or Dallas or Orlando or Nashville; we want them to stay here. So, that’s why the concentration is yes, we want to invest in the students, but even more than anything, we want opportunities to be there afterwards so they don’t leave us.
Miano: What do you believe the state needs to do to keep students in Connecticut?
Hanscomb: I think really the big thing is gonna be opportunities and eliminating the income tax altogether. That combination is going to be the key. The private sector will figure out where the new opportunities are for the future. But the biggest thing, once again, is look at what’s working in other states and let’s figure out that model and that’s why, once again, I’m such a big proponent of eliminating the income tax and changing the way we do taxation in the state.
Miano: Let’s talk marijuana. What’s your reaction to the state legislature’s recent rejection of the bill to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana?
Hanscomb: So, Andrew, I have a little perspective in this because I was living in Washington state up until four years ago when I came back to my home state of Connecticut. And Washington and Colorado were the first states to legalize marijuana. As a Libertarian, I believe as long as you’re not infringing on the rights of others, it’s not the business of the government to tell you what to do with your life or with your body.
Personally, I don’t think it’s a great idea to be a marijuana smoker, but that’s just my personal opinion. If the legislature were to bring it to my desk as governor, I would approve. But I personally am not one who will go out of my way to sponsor legislation for it. I’ll let the voters decide and the legislature decide to bring it to me.
Miano: And finally, Governor Malloy recently laid out his vision for Connecticut in his state of the state address. What is your vision for the future of Connecticut?
Hanscomb: If you look at Connecticut historically, it has been the leader of the nation. From the end of the Civil War all the way into the early 1900s, for instance, Hartford, Connecticut, was the wealthiest city in America.
But as time has gone on and the national income tax came along, the state income tax followed in 1991, union power began to rule, way too many regulations were enacted and taxation was hiked. Our big cities began to show what has worked and what hasn’t worked.
My vision of Connecticut is being the most pro-business state in the country – having the most entrepreneurial mindset out there, taking the regulations off businesses, lowering taxation and letting the private sector and the entrepreneurial minds and visionaries coming out of our universities set the tone for the future.
Andrew Miano is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.