Republican Tom Foley chose a V.F.W. Hall in Waterbury on Wednesday to make his second bid for governor official.
Foley, the former Ambassador to Ireland and chairman of NTC Group, announced in September that he was using public financing to explore a run for governor after using about $10 million of his own money on the race four years ago.
If elected, Foley, the 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate who lost by just 6,404 votes, said he would cut the sales tax from 6.35 percent to 5.85 percent and invest more in strategies to help turn around Connecticut’s urban areas.
He estimated the sales tax cut would cost the state about $350 million a year and he would pay for it by “holding discretionary spending flat for two years.” That means the tax cut wouldn’t come until his third year in office.
Beyond cutting what he described as one of the “most regressive taxes,” he said, he would also implement an urban policy agenda that focuses on schools, crime, housing, poverty, and jobs, “to address the problems of our cities and the most vulnerable people in them.”
And unlike some of his fellow Republicans in the legislature, Foley said he supports the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Connecticut implemented an Earned Income Tax Credit in 2011 that’s equal to about 30 percent of a filer’s federal tax credit. Data shows that working families in every town in the state benefited from the credit and received an average of $601 back from the state after filing their tax return.
Hearing a candidate with an anti-poverty, urban strategy was music to Regina Roundtree’s ears, but Democratic Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary was skeptical.
Roundtree, founder of Connecticut Black Republicans and Conservatives, said Foley is the first candidate to come out and talk about urban policies and the importance of the cities to our state. She said she hasn’t thrown her support behind any candidate yet, but is encouraged that Foley is committed to the cities.
O’Leary said catering to the cities may be a good political strategy, but the issues in the race are the same as they were four years ago.
“I never heard how all these spending cuts were going to impact cities,” O’Leary said. “We need revenue. We rely on state aid. Period.”
He said 35 percent of the funding Waterbury receives comes from the state, so if candidates like Foley are going to make cuts he wants to know how they will impact his community and his budget.
Foley said he would hold discretionary spending flat for two years and once spending is under control he would cuts the sales tax by a half a percent.
O’Leary said he wants more details and a definition of what Foley kept saying was “discretionary spending.”
“I will fix our city schools with real education reform,” Foley said. “We must do this to ensure every young person in Connecticut gets a fair start with a decent education.”
Foley said he wouldn’t interfere with local control of schools that are performing well, but where they are not performing well he will introduce “in-district school choice, money follows the child, more support for teachers, and a threshold reading test for advancement to fourth grade.”
He said wealthier suburban communities should help by allowing a greater amount of money to go to the urban communities where the state has the most underperforming schools.
Roundtree said she’s seen some of the urban policies Foley has been drafting and they help keep people out of poverty while saving the state money. For instance, using an ankle bracelet program for non-violent offenders to keep them in their homes and united with their families would save the state money because the cost of sending them to prison is much greater.
Foley vowed to work with anyone to “break the cycle of poverty.”
“Connecticut’s future is only as good as the future of our cities,” Foley said.
He said the challenges of cities would be a huge commitment of his administration.
But Foley faces stiff competition from within the Republican Party. Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, former West Hartford Town Councilor Joseph Visconti, and Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti are running for the Republican nomination and Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton is still exploring.