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Connecticut gubernatorial candidates disagree over spending budget surplus in televised debate

Election 2018 Governor Connecticut Debate
Jessica Hill
Republican Party candidate Bob Stefanowski, left, shakes hands with Democratic Party candidate Ned Lamont, at the end of a gubernatorial debate at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut.

Three candidates running for governor in Connecticut faced off in their first televised debate on Tuesday. Democratic Governor Ned Lamont, Republican Bob Stefanowski and Independent Rob Hotaling clashed over the budget surplus.

It was one of the contentious issues in the hour-long debate on NBC Connecticut and Telemundo Connecticut.

“We can’t afford to keep that money in Hartford," said Stefanowski. "It’s your money. It’s not Governor Lamont’s money and when I’m governor that’s how I’m going to treat it.”

Some of the $4.3 billion in the state budget rainy day fund should be given back to taxpayers in the form of tax cuts.

“One of the things that we are looking to do would be eliminating business personal property taxes and motor vehicle taxes. Those are two items. We also look at lowering the income tax rate as economic growth generates,” argued Hotaling.

The money should also be used to fund education and increase compensation for teachers and law enforcement personnel in the state’s poorest cities, he said.

“They’ve spent the rainy day fund three times over these two. And that’s just the type of governance that got us into this pickle over the last thirty years,” said Governor Lamont in response.

He promised to stick with the current arrangement that calls for capping the rainy day fund at $3.3 billion, or 15% of the state’s annual operating cost. And spending any additional surplus on paying down the teachers and state employee pension debt. That would save taxpayers money in the long run, said Lamont.

The candidates also clashed over abortion, crime, jobs and education. They’ll meet for two more debates before the November 8 election.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.