Why Bob Stefanowski’s Plan is Radical and Wrong

Six years ago, a Republican politician signed up with far-right economist Arthur Laffer to propose a deceptive, “simple” tax plan. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback would offer his state gigantic new tax breaks that would slash rates across the board and eliminate his state’s top income tax bracket.

It would be like a “shot of adrenaline” to the economy, Brownback promised. Kansans were told it would result in “enormous prosperity” for their state.

Then… reality happened.

When the huge tax cuts went into effect, “their failure was seen almost instantly.” Kansas became a national experiment in extremist economics — and it failed in a spectacular way.

Education was slashed to pay for the tax cut. State aid for education saw the largest decline in two decades, and possibly in state history. The cuts to classrooms were so draconian that they were deemed unconstitutional by a judge.

Budget holes of hundreds of millions of dollars, specifically because of the Republican experiment, ensued. The state’s credit rating was downgraded. Critical services were cut. And eventually the sales tax was hiked, causing “homeowners, workers, and businesses” the most pain.

Facing fiscal turmoil, Kansas lagged far behind the national average in private sector job and GDP growth. It netted only 28,000 new non-farm jobs — fewer than the similar, but considerably smaller, economy of neighboring Nebraska.

The result was a “full-blown disaster for Kansans” because “the governor’s growth strategy is in ruins,” as one columnist put it. It put the state “in crisis mode” while actually harming the business climate. That’s why a supermajority of the overwhelmingly Republican state legislature voted to repeal the income tax cut.

It became a mess, largely because, to use George H.W. Bush’s words, the tax ideas it was premised on were “voodoo economics” (a phrase also popularized here). Kansas has become the national example of what not to do.

Which brings us to Connecticut.

We need to focus on creating jobs and growing the economy — not slashing critical services.

Unfortunately, what happened in Kansas is exactly what Bob Stefanowski is promising as he runs on eliminating the income tax here at home. He promises that it will be a cure-all for our complex economic challenges. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s employing the same economic advisor who was the architect of the failing tax plan in Kansas.

Mr. Stefanowski claims that, like in the Kansas experiment, his plan will “unleash a business boom.”

It won’t.

Why? Tax cuts don’t pay for themselves, and politicians who say they do aren’t telling you the truth.

While my opponent makes these pie-in-the-sky promises, we’ve run the numbers on what will actually happen in our state if the income tax is eliminated.

Similar to Kansas, Connecticut’s income tax accounts for 56 percent of the general fund. That means that basically every line item in the budget will be cut in half or eliminated entirely. Consequently, the following is going to happen if Mr. Stefanowski ever implemented his plan.

First… Property. Taxes. Will. Soar.

It’s guaranteed. State aid represents 27 percent of local government revenue. Without it, property taxes will likely rise in every town. In many, they’ll double.

I believe we need to cut property taxes — because middle class families have been paying too much and deserve relief. I am focused on growing our economy and creating jobs — and that won’t happen by jacking up property taxes in virtually every city and town statewide.

And where property tax rates don’t double, local services — from our educational system, to police, to fire departments — will be gutted.

At a time when we need to be investing in our cities and towns like never before, this plan will make it harder for them to get by.

Mr. Stefanowski’s tax plan, which would cut at least $1 billion in direct state support for local schools, would have devastating effects on our children’s educations, while 8,600 teaching positions statewide would be eliminated under his proposal.

I believe we need to support our teachers, invest in our classrooms, and emphasize STEM so that each of our children receives a world-class education that equips them for the jobs and the industries of tomorrow. Slashing billions in education dollars is a formula for taking us backwards — not forward.

In addition to jeopardizing our children’s ability to succeed in the classroom, Mr. Stefanowski’s plan would adversely affect the most vulnerable in our state.

Mr. Stefanowski’s proposal would slash property tax breaks for 19,669 veterans — or eliminate them entirely for 9,835 Connecticut residents who have served our country bravely.

I believe we have a moral obligation to support every veteran who fought to defend this country — not to roll back common-sense benefits.

We all know that seniors are the anchors of our communities. But the reality is that Mr. Stefanowski’s plan to eliminate the income tax would result in ending tax breaks for 47,000 elderly and disabled residents, or eliminating them entirely for 23,500 individuals.

We need to be a Connecticut where our seniors can age in place and live with dignity. Rolling back these benefits isn’t a roadmap to building a better future for the state.

What’s more, 520 state troopers who protect our communities and 3,500 UConn and Connecticut State Colleges and Universities faculty and staff who educate the leaders of tomorrow would have to be let go.

If we’re going to build a 21st century state, we need to give our state troopers the tools they need to keep driving crime down. And as we do that, we need to give young people the tools they need to get a great education that prepares them for great jobs. It cannot — and should not — be so hard to go to college. Putting barriers on learning is the antithesis to a pro-growth agenda.

When it comes to our kids, 8,788 children of low-income parents will lose child care under this proposal. The 22,000 kids who currently have access to school-based health clinics, and the comprehensive medical coverage they provide, would be denied health care.

That’s just not who we are and who we need to be as a state.

For parents who are saving for college tuition, Connecticut State University tuition would rise by 11% — or $2,604 — under my opponent’s plan. If you’re saving for community college, brace yourself for a 62% spike.

At a time when we need to be preparing everyone with 21st century job training, and just when we need to be delivering Connecticut jobs for Connecticut workers, a massive tuition hike at community colleges simply isn’t conducive to a vibrant economy.

To be clear, this is only some of what would happen — it’s just a partial list….

The impacts of Mr. Stefanowski’s plan are real, and they will be felt across the state. His plan represents an easy answer, rather than a hard choice.

And that’s because my opponent isn’t telling you that your property taxes will skyrocket. Or that the sales tax will have to be jacked up. He isn’t telling teachers they will be fired and parents that school funding will be gutted.

He isn’t telling veterans or the elderly that their tax breaks will go away, or admitting that our already broken infrastructure will crumble as a result.

But it’s the truth under his plan. It’s the false choice, and the bad choice, he’s proposing.

There is no question we need to change how we do business. That’s why I’m a different kind of candidate who’s going to be a different kind of governor.

But the answer isn’t replicating a failed experiment here at home. The answer isn’t to gamble, and treat our budget crisis as a game of roulette.

Instead, I believe the answer lies in being honest and making hard decisions.

I believe in creating jobs and economic growth, and making smart investments.

I believe in cutting your property taxes, while Stefanowski’s plan raises them.

I believe in investing in education, while my opponent will cut it.

I believe in working in a bipartisan way, and in making the kinds of investments that governors of both parties failed to make for decades.

And I believe the choice this November could not be clearer.

It’s a choice between repeating a failed test-case right here in Connecticut with voodoo economics…and building a Connecticut for the future.