From charges for registering as a hypnotist to fees for calling witnesses in court, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski told reporters Tuesday that his administration would stop collecting roughly 200 “nuisance taxes” on his first day in office if elected governor of Connecticut.
Stefanowski, who will compete in a rematch against Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont in November, appeared at a podium with his running mate, Fairfield Rep. Laura Devlin, on a sidewalk of the state Capitol complex.
To their right, campaign staff had lodged about 200 tiny red flags into the Capitol lawn. Each flag was meant to represent one of 200 taxes or fees which he said collectively raise the state only about $50 million in revenue.
“Why are we enforcing 200 taxes that deliver less than one quarter of 1% of the revenue of the state of Connecticut, many of which cost more to collect than the revenue they bring in?” Stefanowski said.
Citing information gathered by conservative think tank the Yankee Institute, Stefanowski pointed to several fees, whose revenues he said did not warrant collection: a fee for calling witnesses in court, which he said generates just over $210 a year, another fee for jury trials, which generates $3,264, a registration fee for hypnotists, which annually raises $14,600.
Although their collective revenue appears tiny against a $24 billion state budget, Stefanowski said they add up to make Connecticut a complex and bureaucratic place to do business and inspire firms to relocate to simpler states.
“On my first day as governor, when Laura and I walk into this building, we’re going to instruct the commissioner of revenue services to simply stop collecting the bottom 200 taxes,” Stefanowski said. “Now I know everybody’s going to jump up and down, ‘You can’t do that,’ right? I’m going to tell him to do it.”
Stefanowski said he would follow that directive up by proposing legislation to permanently eliminate the 200 taxes and fees.
“I want to see the person on the other side of the aisle that stands up and says, ‘We really need to keep the hypnotist registration fee,’” Stefanowski said. “Let them do it.”
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, a Democrat who spoke to reporters as a surrogate for Lamont, said the state could look at getting rid of some of the fees cited by the Republican candidate, but characterized the proposal as “silly” and diminutive compared to the more than $600 million in temporary and permanent tax reductions adopted by the legislature under this year’s budget adjustment package.
“What he proposed was nickels and dimes, a tax cut that amounts to one-thirteenth of the tax cut that the governor just enacted,” Bronin said.
“I think that Bob Stefanowski is having trouble finding his footing and having trouble coming up with serious proposals,” Bronin said.
Both Bronin and Lamont’s campaign, through a press release, painted Stefanowski’s campaign as in need of a “reset” following recent staff turnover, which has included the replacement of his press contact and campaign manager.
Asked if Stefanowski would have the legal authority as governor to suspend state taxes or fees, Bronin said he would not.
“If these [fees] are built into law, then he doesn’t have the authority,” Bronin said. “But the bigger point … is I don’t think Bob Stefanowski has ever gotten serious about what governing and governance means. The idea that he can just unilaterally erase these fees is as silly as the idea that he can deliver core services to the state of Connecticut if you eliminate the income tax.”