FLEE­ING THE STATE

Repub­li­can’s sup­port­ers mull mov­ing to states with lower taxes

Hartford Courant - - Front Page - By Re­becca Lurye rlurye@courant.com

Some Ste­fanowski sup­port­ers mull moves to states with lower taxes.

Hours af­ter Repub­li­can Bob Ste­fanowski con­ceded the gover­nor's race to Ned La­mont on Wed­nes­day, talk at Bill and Sam's Diner in Wol­cott turned to sunny Florida.

Again and again dur­ing the cam­paign, Ste­fanowski warned that with­out a Repub­li­can gover­nor peo­ple would con­tinue to flee to states such as Florida, with low taxes and bal­anced bud­gets. Now, over plates of pan­cakes and ba­con at this land­mark diner, re­tirees and work­ers alike rued Ste­fanowski's loss and mulled plans to get out.

“You don't up­grade in Con­necti­cut, you move out,” said 52-yearold Mike Dupre, re­tired from ESPN in Bris­tol. He shared a booth with a friend plan­ning to move to New Hamp­shire, where there's no per­sonal in­come tax. As for his fam­ily, “we're a cou­ple years from go­ing to Florida.”

“Taxes keep go­ing up. You don't up­grade in this state,” Dupre said. “You move out.”

That feel­ing was echoed in con­ver­sa­tions across the state this week, par­tic­u­larly in the 122 towns that went for Ste­fanowski.

“I don't know how busi­ness is gonna be if peo­ple keep mov­ing out of state, and I don't think it's gonna stop,” John Lu­mani, 42, said Thurs­day, lean­ing back in a vin­tage bar­ber chairs at his Avon salon, Lu­mani's.

While only 49.9 per­cent per­cent of vot­ers in Avon chose Ste­fanowski, he beat La­mont by a 6.9-point mar­gin. The rest went to in­de­pen­dent Oz Griebel, who took 54,400 votes statewide.

Lu­mani was among the ma­jor­ity who went with Ste­fanowski. He’s al­ready used to los­ing clients when cor­po­rate clo­sures hit the Farm­ing­ton Val­ley. More de­par­tures would be crip­pling, said Lu­mani, who grew up in Bridge­port and Southing­ton be­fore set­tling in Avon.

His town pride is squeezed onto the busy walls of his shop, be­tween auc­tion and es­tate sale finds — a team photo of lo­cal base­ball play­ers, the 1927 Avon Bru­ins; a poster for the Avon Old Farms School, the boys board­ing school founded that same year.

“This is all I know, and I love this state,” Lu­mani said. “I just feel like the fu­ture looks bleak.”

Vot­ers’ con­cerns var­ied from cost of liv­ing to the power of pub­lic unions to the depth of ser­vices avail­able in the cities, and lack of sup­port for ru­ral dwellers. Many worry about the pos­si­bil­ity of tolled roads now that vot­ers have ap­proved the cre­ation of a lock box for trans­porta­tion fund­ing.

Other gam­bits for fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity have failed to solve the state’s fis­cal mess, some ar­gued, cit­ing the Con­necti­cut Lot­tery and casi­nos. In time, crit­ics say, the state may sim­ply get used to spend­ing the es­ti­mated $750 mil­lion to $1 bil­lion in po­ten­tial rev­enue from tolls.

And while many Ste­fanowski sup­port­ers hail from deeply con­ser­va­tive parts of Con­necti­cut — 71.9 per­cent of Wol­cott vot­ers went for the for­mer busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive, a higher share than Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump took two years ago — oth­ers are self-pro­claimed lib­er­als.

Patti Pro­co­pio of Bris­tol split her bal­lot, vot­ing for Democrats Shawn Wooden for state trea­surer and Ja­hana Hayes for Con­gress — both of whom won — and Ste­fanowski for gover­nor. On Wed­nes­day, she sat in the back of her thrift and gift shop, Choices, be­hind the racks of vin­tage T-shirts and fair trade frocks and the dis­play cases filled with fig­urines and jewelry. She tried to be op­ti­mistic, hold­ing off judg­ment of La­mont un­til she lis­tened to his ac­cep­tance speech later. But her mind was on those who aren’t as for­tu­nate as her, a busi­ness owner of more than a decade.

“There’s an aw­ful lot of poor peo­ple in Con­necti­cut,” Pro­co­pio said. In Bris­tol, one in 10 res­i­dents lives in poverty. She fa­vored a gover­nor who vowed to cut taxes and crack down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, which she wor­ries is a strain on pub­lic ser­vices.

“If the state con­tin­ues to be a bleed­ing heart state, it’s just go­ing to get worse and worse and worse,” she said. “But I’m just gonna wait and see what (La­mont’s) gonna do. It’s a wait­ing game.”

In Nau­gatuck, where 61 per­cent of vot­ers went to Ste­fanowski, Sandy Lyons is long done wait­ing.

The cer­ti­fied nurs­ing as­sis­tant, out of work for a year due to surgery, has planned to re­lo­cate her fam­ily since her hus­band’s com­pany, Siemens, closed its Health­care Di­ag­nos­tics divi­sion in Brook­field in 2016. There’s an­other lo­ca­tion in Delaware, where taxes are lower, she says.

“We weren’t happy with (Gov. Dan­nel P.) Mal­loy’s per­for­mance and feel he’s done a lot of dam­age to this state,” Lyons, 54, said. “With La­mont propos­ing a statewide ve­hi­cle tax on top of the mu­nic­i­pal ve­hi­cle tax, it was just crazy.”

The move is still two years away, af­ter her daugh­ter grad­u­ates from col­lege. But once in Delaware, Lyons es­ti­mates the fam­ily will save $7,000 in taxes per year.

“We’re kind of feel­ing like if the kids were set right now, and we had the money, and the house was set, we’d be ready to go.”

RE­BECCA LURYE/HART­FORD COURANT

JohnLu­mani, owner of Lu­mani’s Bar­ber Shop in Avon, sup­ported Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Bob Ste­fanowski. “I just feel like the fu­ture looks bleak,” Lu­mani said.

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