HARTFORD, CT — In the days leading up to next Tuesday’s five-way Republican primary for governor, every mailer and every television commercial will be scrutinized by the opposition.
A mailer paid for by Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton’s campaign says he will “reduce state income taxes.”
Kevin Rennie, a blogger, attorney, and Hartford Courant columnist, called a reduction of state income taxes a “reversal” from Boughton’s pledge to phase out the state income tax over the next 10 years.
Rennie says Boughton “nixed ‘repeal’ and replaced it with the more manageable, fungible ‘reduce’.”
Boughton’s primary opponents immediately jumped on Rennie’s analysis.
“Most career politicians abandon their campaign promises after they’re elected,” Albert Eisenberg, a spokesman for David Stemerman, said. “We applaud Mayor Boughton for his honesty, abandoning the central promise of his campaign right before the election instead.”
Bob Stefanowski’s campaign said it means that he’s the only Republican candidate in the race now proposing to eliminate the income tax.
A spokesman for Boughton’s campaign said he hasn’t waffled on his position to eliminate the income tax over 10 years.
“He has delivered the same message consistently throughout the campaign,” Pat O’Neil, a spokesman for Boughton said. “He will phase out the income tax over the next 10 years— starting with a $381 million reduction over the first two years.”
O’Neil said there’s nothing about his position that has changed and it’s just a last-minute attack that shows Boughton in the lead.
Budget forecasts call for the state bring in $9.7 billion in income tax revenues this coming year, $9.8 billion the following, and $10 billion a year after that. The state’s annual budget is about $20 billion so the income tax, which was instituted in 1991, generates half the revenue the state receives.
The next governor will face an estimated two-year, $4.6 billion deficit when he takes office in January. The next governor also won’t be allowed to lay off any of the state’s unionize workforce thanks to an agreement inked in July 2017.
Stemerman, Steve Obsitnik, and former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst have all promised to reduce taxes, but have said it would be impossible to eliminate the income tax.
Former Gov. John G. Rowland ran in 1994 on a promise to eliminate the income tax within five years. He was unsuccessful in carrying out that promise.
There are few if any budget analysts who believe anyone would be able to accomplish it even over the next 10 years, mostly due to the unfunded pension liabilities which are increasing and eating up a bigger portion of the state’s operating budget.
However, both Boughton and Stefanowski, maintain it can be done and will make Connecticut more competitive.
There are Republican and Democratic primaries Tuesday, Aug. 14. Only voters who are registered with a party will be able to vote.