The Connecticut gubernatorial race is one of the closest in the country. With overwhelmingly unpopular Dannel Malloy (D) leaving office the Republican Party has a real shot to win back the Governor’s mansion for the first time in eight years. The two major party candidates vying to replace Malloy are Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski. The candidates have vastly different ideas on how to fix the problems Connecticut faces and the values we should hold as a state.
I’ll spare a bit of time for the economy, the issue that has dominated the race due to the mess that the state’s finances are in. Stefanowski’s plan is to cut taxes. A lot. His core campaign pledge is to phase out the income tax over eight years. This is the same income tax that funds more than 50 percent of the state budget. So not a very smart idea. And if you made the mistake of thinking Bob was in it for the little guy, think again. He plans to eliminate the gift and sales taxes, both of which primarily affect the very rich. The drastic cuts in spending necessary to pay for Stefanowski’s tax plan would negatively affect the towns and cities that receive state funding as well as government programs. Slashing revenues when we’re already at a deficit simply isn’t realistic.
For those of you who think I’m wrong about what the tax cuts will do, I invite you to look at Kansas . Several years ago their Republican governor and legislature slashed taxes across the board, including an elimination of the top income tax bracket. The result was financial ruin for their state, education funding got eviscerated and the deficit ballooned. Kansas even had their credit rating downgraded before their Republican legislature had to put taxes back in place. And the kicker is that the Reagan economic advisor who helped in the development of the Kansas plan, Arthur Laffer, is the same person that has endorsed Stefanowski’s.
On the other hand, Lamont is calling for a property tax cut for middle class families. This plan would help provide some relief to families, specifically those making less than $160,500, and wouldn’t be as detrimental to the budget as Stefanowski’s plan. That said, it is still a tax cut in a state facing massive deficits, so paying for the plan will be a problem. Overall, Lamont’s plan is much more responsible than Stefanowski’s.
Getting away from taxes, something that’s been talked to death this fall, let’s look at where the candidates stand on other issues. Lamont is a strong advocate for common sense gun control measures and supports the ones that the state has already enacted. Going forward, he has expressed interest in closing existing loopholes and expanding on gun buyback programs that have had success in Connecticut. Stefanowski doesn’t have anything on his website on the issue but was given a rating of A by the NRA . So we can infer that he would not be in favor of more gun control and may even seek to undo some of the landmark legislation passed in the years since Sandy Hook.
On education, both candidates talk a pretty decent game. Stefanowski argues for the continuation of Education Cost Sharing (ECS) funding to cities and towns in Connecticut and encouraging schools to share resources, among other things. Lamont wants to make community colleges tuition-free for those who commit to staying in Connecticut for a certain time after they graduate. He is also committed to ECS and wants to promote high school-private sector engagements to teach fundamental professional skills. Comparing their websites makes it clear that Lamont has much more detailed proposals on how to improve education in the state. Furthermore, his economic plan will not lead to the same reduction in spending we are likely to see under Stefanowski, a reduction that may lead to rising costs for college and the elimination of hundreds if not thousands of teaching positions. While some of Stefanowski’s education-specific policies are not terrible, his overall goals would be a disaster.
There are many other issues voters should review before they go out and vote today. But it doesn’t get any better from here. Stefanowski simply does not have a viable plan. Instead of developing one, he’s spent all his time complaining about how bad Malloy was and how bad Lamont is going to be. Personally, I don’t want our state going the way of Kansas (no offense Kansas). We need a governor who will be fiscally responsible, not one who will lose needed revenue. We need a governor that cares about gun safety, education, climate change, LGBT rights and all the other important issues of the day. Ned Lamont is the only candidate who fits that description.
Jacob Kowalski is opinion editor for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.