Registered Democrats outnumber their Republican counterparts by a 5 to 3 advantage in Connecticut, which means GOP gubernatorial candidates face an uphill battle right from the start. But this year, the unpopularity of the Nutmeg State’s Democratic governor, Dannel P. Malloy, has the potential to even the field. All that is required, it seems fair to assume, is a candidate who presents ideas worthy of consideration.
Bob Stefanowski comes to Connecticut voters as an outsider, and sells himself as a non-politician who will use his business acumen to turn around the state’s perilous financial situation. That description should sound familiar, considering the current occupant of the Oval Office.
Stefanowski’s rhetoric is also familiar, as in promises that sound great but wither upon even the most rudimentary examination. Eliminating the state income tax is a no-brainer when it comes to getting attention and eliciting applause, but that shiny bauble tarnishes rapidly when you won’t explain convincingly how it’s going to work and how you’re going to make up for the loss of the state’s greatest revenue source. Those promises may have helped him win his party’s nomination, but the outcome of the general election ought to require a more cogent, deliberative explanation.
Petitioning candidate Oz Griebel has presented some compelling ideas, but spending the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help offset the budget deficit is not among them. It would strip the state from the ability to respond to a crisis, sacrificing long-term prospects for a quick fix.
Democrat Ned Lamont has a tough task in combating the perception that he would simply be another Malloy. But it’s worth noting that while Malloy’s approach may have been off-putting he was dealing from the onset eight years ago with a dangerously underfunded state pension plan and a huge budget deficit. He was the one who had the courage to say it was time to stop kicking the can down the road, a routine practice of his Republican predecessors.
Lamont’s proposals are not as captivating as the promise to eliminate the income tax. They are more measured and more careful and, yes, harder to sell. It took a while for the state to get into this mess, and Lamont’s approach appears to recognize that it will take a while to get out of it.
“You’ll have a budget that is an honest budget,” said Lamont during a recent meeting with the Record-Journal editorial board. His plans include reducing property taxes, equalizing across towns the state the property tax on vehicles and allowing a property tax credit for state income taxes. Lamont supports a toll on trucks to support the transportation fund. He supports legalizing marijuana. Significantly, Lamont also expresses support for open government. “I’ll be a champion for transparency,” he said.
Also of note to local residents is that Lamont’s chosen running mate is former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz. The experience the Middletown native brings to the ticket is a major plus.
It would be nice if the state’s challenges could be fixed in a flash, but it’s important to recognize that as a fantasy. While there are challenges, foremost among them the persistent deficit, the state also remains endowed with many positives, in business, science, education and more. What’s needed is a steady hand to guide it forward. Among the candidates, Lamont is best suited to take the helm.