Tax cuts becomes hot issue in governor race
By SUSAN HAIGH
Aug. 23, 2018
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The race for governor has given rise to a heated debate over taxes, with the two major party candidates offering competing plans to either eliminate the state's personal income tax or reduce local property taxes.
Democratic businessman Ned Lamont of Greenwich on Thursday unveiled his plan that attempts to scale back the local tax that municipalities impose on vehicles and real estate. He wants to restore and expand the popular property tax credit against the personal income tax in a way that targets low- and middle-class families. The initiative would be phased in over four years, with the average beneficiary receiving a $700 tax cut by Lamont's second two-year state budget proposal.
"We need to make Connecticut more affordable," Lamont said. "And this sensible tax plan will do that."
Lamont has been critical of a proposal from his Republican opponent, Madison businessman Bob Stefanowski, to eliminate the personal income tax over eight years. That tax generates roughly $9.7 billion annually, which covers about 50 percent of the state's main spending account, the General Fund. Lamont has called it a "pie-in-the-sky" proposal that would lead to gutting spending on education and transportation.
Stefanowski contends he will use his business experience to find the necessary savings in the state budget, arguing that lower taxes are needed to save Connecticut financially.
"Anyone who stands up here today and says you can't do it isn't a true leader," Stefanowski said at a recent Republican primary debate. He contends the income tax is "destroying growth" in the state. Messages were left Thursday seeking comment from Stefanowski's campaign manager about Lamont's proposal.
While the economic plan posted on Stefanowski's campaign website does not mention local property taxes, it does call for eliminating the state's gift and estate tax and for phasing out the corporate and business entity taxes
A Quinnipiac University Poll released Thursday shows a majority of voters like the idea of eliminating the income tax, but question whether it is doable. The survey showed 49 percent support ending the tax, while 35 percent oppose it. When asked if it is a realistic idea, 56 percent said no, while 35 percent said yes.
"It's a mixed bag," pollster Douglas Schwartz said of the issue. He noted how there is more support for Lamont's plan to increase the state's $10.10 an hour minimum wage to $15 an hour. Sixty-three percent of voters support the idea while 33 percent oppose it. The survey of 1,029 voters conducted by landlines and cellphones was conducted between Aug. 16 and Aug. 21 and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
Schwartz said Lamont's support of a higher minimum wage might partly explain why he is leading Stefanowski in this latest poll, 46 to 36 percent, with independent Oz Griebel garnering 4 percent and Libertarian Rod Hanscomb receiving 1 percent of the support of voters. Stefanowski said in written statement that his internal polling shows the race much tighter.
Under Lamont's property tax plan, the Democrat calls for a credit of up to $300 for singles earning up to $116,500, heads of households earning up to $138,500, and joint filers earning up to $160,500. That would take effect in the second year of Lamont's first two-year budget, if he is elected governor. The credit would be expanded up to $1,200 in the Lamont's second two-year budget. Lamont also is calling for the restoration of state funding for local property tax credit programs that assist senior citizens.
This story has been corrected to show that the pollster's last name is spelled Schwartz, not Schwarz.