‘Normal guy’ Stefanowski wants to cut taxes

Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski was joined by his wife Amy for an interview by HAN Network at a coffee shop in Madison. — Grace Duffield photo
Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski was joined by his wife Amy for an interview by HAN Network at a coffee shop in Madison. — Grace Duffield photo

The unassuming style of the 56-year-old Bob Stefanowski belies his corporate titles as division CEO and president of GE and CFO of UBS, but is consistent with his stories, his website and his philosophy. Dressed in a polo shirt, he sat next to his wife, Amy, at an outdoor table at Willoughby’s Coffee shop in Madison, where one of his three daughters works, on Saturday morning, July 28.

“I am a normal guy,” he said. “I don’t have a big ego.”

With his website photo of him in a tee shirt and jeans, he seems to be courting the middle class, but, he is not turning his back on the rich either. He wants to keep them in the state. When asked how he would reverse the exodus of businesses and rich individuals from Connecticut, he said: “Taxes, taxes, taxes.”

He wants to eliminate three taxes: the estate taxes, the corporate tax and, most controversial of all, the income tax.

On estate tax, he said, it is “morally incorrect that you are taxed on your income once and then if you want to leave it to your kids you are taxed again. That tax represents less than 1% of the state revenue, but it’s driving people out of the state,” he said. “The people who have millions to leave their families are the ones that “donate to museums and create jobs.”

He also plans to  eliminate the corporate tax over two years. “Make Connecticut a place where businesses want to be again,” he said. “That will bring jobs back.”

He was optimistic for the state, because it has “pockets of different industries,” including financial services in Fairfield County, defense in Madison area, insurance in Hartford and technology corridor in New Haven, he explained.

“We have a big opportunity in this state,” he added.

‘This is the one I love’

He is the only candidate who has introduced a plan to get rid of the state income tax, he said. His opponents say it is not realistic to get rid of such a large part of the state’s revenue, In 2016-17 income tax accounted for nearly 52% of the tax revenue, according to the Department of Revenue Services.  

“This is the one I love. People tell me we can’t do it.” But he said, the state functioned without an income tax before 1991. “Before 1991 and we were the fastest growing state. So people are telling me its impossible to do something that we have done before. It’s not impossible to do something that Tennessee, Florida, Texas have done,” Stefanowski said.

“I signed a formal pledge that I will never raise taxes as governor,” he added.

Cutting expenses

“We have to break the SEBAC agreement,” he said. “I am sympathetic to the union because they were promised this money, but it is absolutely choking the state,” he said. “I have been pretty successful in my career negotiating, but you need to have a credible threat.”

The state employee pension is underfunded by $100 billion, almost $40,000 per person in the state of Connecticut, Stefanowski explained.

“And I don’t think we are doing a favor to the union employees by promising them that we are going to fund it, because are not,” he said.

Saying he wants “fair compromise,” Stefanowski plans to look at perks such as reducing cost of living adjustments and considering copays for medical insurance.

He said layoffs may be necessary.

“I would hope we can find a fair compromise,” he said. “I do think government is too big. Hopefully you do it through attrition and not have to lay off a lot of people off. But we have got to right-size government.”

Also, “there is still $8 billion in discretionary costs in the state,” Stefanowski said.

He said the state needs to re-prioritize spending. “We spend too much on things like a bus from New Britain to Hartford that very few people use or a baseball stadium in Hartford.”