In­side: GOP gu­ber­na­to­rial hope­fuls dis­cuss taxes dur­ing fo­rum in Trumbull.

GOP gu­ber­na­to­rial hope­fuls speak

Connecticut Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Ken Dixon kdixon@ct­ Twit­ter: @KenDixonCT

TRUMBULL — The three lead­ing Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial hope­fuls bick­ered over their fis­cal philoso­phies on Wed­nes­day, il­lus­trat­ing their dif­fer­ences on Con­necti­cut’s bud­get pri­or­i­ties be­fore more than 100 high-tech busi­ness lead­ers.

Dur­ing the event, spon­sored by the Con­necti­cut Tech­nol­ogy Coun­cil, Steve Ob­sit­nik, a West­port tech en­tre­pre­neur, held fast to his plan to cre­ate 300,000 new jobs in eight years.

Party-en­dorsed can­di­date Mark Boughton, the Dan­bury mayor, con­tin­ued his prom­ise to end the state’s per­sonal in­come tax over the next 10 years, prompt­ing ri­val Tim Herbst, of Trumbull, to of­fer him a bet.

“I’m go­ing to make a friendly wa­ger with my col­league to the right,” said Herbst of his neigh­bor on the stage in the Trumbull Mar­riott. “I bet you we are go­ing get high-speed rail in Con­necti­cut be­fore we elim­i­nate the in­come tax. That tax ac­counts for 50 per­cent of the state bud­get.”

But busi­ness devel­op­ment spe­cial­ist Mar­ian Breeze, of Mil­ford, wanted more specifics.

“I’ve heard you talk about in­vest­ing in in­fra­struc­ture and in­vest­ing in tech­nol­ogy, in­vest­ing in ed­u­ca­tion, and in­vest­ing in trans­porta­tion, at the same time you’ve talked about re­duc­ing or in some cases elim­i­nat­ing taxes,” she said dur­ing a late-morn­ing ques­tion pe­riod.

Boughton called for re­or­ga­niz­ing state gov­ern­ment.

“It’s too big. So we’re go­ing to take this op­por­tu­nity to elim­i­nate com­bined de­part­ments and, frankly, cre­ate greater ef­fi­cien­cies by hav­ing less em­ploy­ees,” Boughton said. “We’re far too top heavy with em­ploy­ees. That’s where we’re go­ing to find the sav­ings.”

Boughton said his “progrowth econ­omy” will en­cour­age in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships for trans­porta­tion projects. But, in a nod to Herbst’s wa­ger, he said a high-speed rail plan es­ti­mated to cost $40 bil­lion, is un­likely.

Herbst of­fered a va­ri­ety of smaller-scale tax re­lief, in­clud­ing the elim­i­na­tion of the taxes on wealthy peo­ples’ es­tates, the tax on So­cial Se­cu­rity and busi­ness taxes.

“The $200 mil­lion that you would lose in es­tate-tax rev­enue pales in com­par­i­son to the other taxes you are los­ing when peo­ple flee the state of Con­necti­cut,” he said.

The es­tate tax takes ef­fect for those who die with as­sets in ex­cess of $5 mil­lion. Repub­li­cans say it is a big rea­son why the very wealthy flee the state as they get older.

Bud­gets are set by pri­or­i­ties, Ob­sit­nik said.

“It starts with the pri­or­i­ties on the cus­tomers you are go­ing to hug first,” Ob­sit­nik said. “By hug­ging se­niors with es­tate-tax and pen­sion re­lief, a mid­dle­class tax cut for peo­ple who make $100K or less and re­duc­ing, and po­ten­tially phas­ing out, the cor­po­rate busi­ness tax — year one — that’s about 3 to 4 per­cent of our rev­enue, right? Hug­ging cus­tomers I want to keep here — se­niors, busi­nesses and hard work­ing peo­ple — I keep their rev­enue in the state, right, which is im­por­tant so they can breath and say ‘I can ac­tu­ally live, build a fam­ily and re­tire in Con­necti­cut.’ ”

Ob­sit­nik said Mas­sachusetts state gov­ern­ment is about 20 per­cent more ef­fi­cient than Con­necti­cut in the de­liv­ery of ser­vices.

The 90-minute fo­rum was hosted by WTIC ra­dio host Joe D’Am­bro­sio and co-spon­sored by the Con­necti­cut Tech­nol­ogy Coun­cil and by the law firm of Pull­man & Com­ley. The board of the coun­cil has cre­ated an agenda for growth that will be pre­sented to the next gov­er­nor, said Bruce Carl­son, pres­i­dent and CEO of the 250-mem­ber or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Dur­ing the af­ter­noon ses­sion, en­dorsed Demo­cratic can­di­date Ned La­mont, of Green­wich, spent about 45 min­utes with D’Am­bro­sio and said the state’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem needs to be able to dove­tail with the thou­sands of jobs in the new econ­omy, for which there is a press­ing need for work­ers.

“I would love to elim­i­nate the in­come tax,” La­mont said. “I would love to elim­i­nate the es­tate tax. I would love to get rid of the cor­po­rate in­come tax, but I think (Con­necti­cut Tech­nol­ogy Coun­cil) has it right. The first thing you need to give busi­ness con­fi­dence is to have an hon­estly bal­anced bud­get and that’s go­ing to be my laser fo­cus go­ing for­ward.”

La­mont says he needs state em­ploy­ees to ad­dress the mas­sive un­funded-pen­sion li­a­bil­ity.

“I be­lieve in col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing,” he said. “Every­one has to be part of the so­lu­tion. I want to work col­lab­o­ra­tively with la­bor. I’m will­ing to take the hit on the tough de­ci­sions we’re go­ing to have to make.”

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

From left; Repub­li­can can­di­dates for gov­er­nor Mark Boughton, Tim Herbst and Steve Ob­sit­nik field ques­tions from the au­di­ence dur­ing a gu­ber­na­to­rial fo­rum spon­sored by the CT Tech­nol­ogy Coun­cil at the Trumbull Mar­riott in Trumbull on Wed­nes­day.

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