HARTFORD, CT — “You have no solutions Bob,” Oz Griebel, the petitioning candidate for governor, shouted halfway through the second to last governor’s debate.
There wasn’t a lot of back and forth between the candidates, but the most heated moment in Thursday’s Connecticut Broadcasters Association debate included Democratic nominee Ned Lamont and Griebel telling Republican nominee Bob Stefanowski that he wouldn’t be able to achieve his campaign promise of lowering taxes.
The first heated moment came when the candidates were asked a question about General Electric’s decision to move its headquarters from Fairfield to Boston.
Lamont said he met with GE executives after the announcement and the reason they moved to a state with higher taxes was because they couldn’t get the talent they needed, and then when they got the talent they were unable to get them to the office because of “gridlock traffic.”
Lamont said they need to “train people for the jobs that they can’t fill” and improve transportation.
“You know why GE left? Because of the worst economic policy under Dan Malloy,” Stefanowski said. “We need to get the corporate tax rate down to keep companies like GE here.”
Stefanowski said GE left because Connecticut didn’t have a business person leading the state and the last powerpoint presentation to try to get them to stay — produced by the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) — mistakenly included a photo of a Pratt & Whitney jet engine rather than one built by GE.
Stefanowski said Lamont loves to brag about how he helped bring Infosys, a company based in India, to Hartford.
“Infosys made $2 billion last year and he asked the taxpayers of Connecticut to pay $14 million to incent them to come to Connecticut,” Stefanowski said.
The DECD will provide up to $12 million in grants to Infosys after certain job-creation milestones are met. In addition, the company is eligible to receive up to $2 million in training grants to support partnerships the company creates with local education organizations.
Stefanowski also referenced a fine paid by Infosys — a $34 million civil settlement to the Justice Department, which accused the company of systemic abuse of visa rules, according to the New York Times.
Infosys has since changed its business model.
Lamont said the decision by Infosys to come to Hartford is “one of the reasons Aetna turned around the moving vans.”
Without any incentive, Aetna, which is merging with CVS, agreed to stay in Hartford for at least 10 years and maintain its current staffing levels for at least the next four years.
Lamont brought the Connecticut president of Infosys with him to the debate, and added that Stefanowski’s accusations regarding Infosys are “dead wrong.” He said it’s been a long-time since a company hiring 1,000 people has moved to Hartford.
Stefanowski said he hasn’t had a chance to sit down with Infosys, but would welcome the opportunity.
Infosys is also opening a hub in Indiana, where Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has defended the company. Holcomb, like Lamont shrugs off the notion that the India-based company undercuts American jobs.
“They’re hiring here,” Holcomb told the New York Times.
When it comes to transportation, Stefanowski said Lamont would install truck-only tolls that would eventually apply to everyone and Griebel would pilot tolls in High Occupancy Vehicle lanes.
Griebel said the state needs to have a serious discussion about how it would fund improvements to transportation because the gas tax isn’t cutting it anymore.
Griebel said a toll would be more fair way to raise revenue because it would impact everyone equally.
Griebel said Stefanowski is asking people to trust his plans without providing any details. “It’s all ‘trust me’,” Griebel said.
The next governor will face a two-year, $4.6 billion deficit, but it’s estimated that they will start with $2 billion in the Rainy Day Fund.
Stefanowski attributed the growth over the past two years of the Rainy Day Fund to President Donald Trump’s tax cuts.
“You know why we have the Rainy Day Fund to begin with? Fundamental tax reform at the national level,” Stefanowski said. “It just shows you what a little common sense around lowering taxes, instead of raising taxes like the two other people on our panel want to do.”
Some of the Rainy Day Fund can be attributed to one-time payments required under Section 457A of the Internal Revenue Code, a federal law enacted in October 2008 to require hedge fund managers to bring overseas profits back into the United States by the end of 2017.
However, the other part is related to the state legislature’s bipartisan budget and the volatility cap.
Section 704 of the 2017 bipartisan state budget, referred to as the “volatility cap” provision, requires that any revenue from estimated and final income tax payments in excess of $3.15 billion be diverted to the budget reserve fund.
The volatility cap was an important part of the bipartisan budget negotiation and responsible for a majority of the revenues currently in the fund.