Lamont, Stefanowski make sales pitch to Connecticut business leaders
Connecticut's economy is struggling, but who can make it better? On Friday, both major candidates for governor pitched their plans to business leaders.
Gov. Ned Lamont and his Republican challenger, Bob Stefanowski, fielded questions at a Connecticut Business and Industry Association event in Hartford. It was familiar territory for two wealthy businessmen.
The governor said his administration has streamlined state government and invested in transportation, housing and child care.
"We've got the biggest investment in workforce development in the history of the state -- well over $100 million," he said.
Stefanowski noted that Connecticut dropped 15 spots in CNBC's Top States for Business.
"If you had a CEO who was in for four years and produced those kind of results, would you give him or her another four years?" Stefanowski asked the crowd. "Of course you wouldn't."
CBIA's 2022 Survey of Connecticut Businesses paints a mixed outlook. It notes, "The state's fiscal health has not been this robust in decades." But employers remain pessimistic. Only a quarter of them expect the state's economy to grow, a third say it costs too much to live here, and 85% say they can't find enough workersr
"When you find good people, you have to really figure out how to keep them. And you can," said John Green, CEO of Lux Bond and Green jewelers. "It's finding the next generation to work for us which has been the biggest challenge for us."
Both politicians say more trade schools will help the labor crisis, but they disagree on how deeply to cut taxes – and whether to spend the state's emergency rainy day fund. Stefanowski promised fewer regulations and deep tax cuts, but he would pay for it with $3 billion of surplus and reserve funds.
"I know we're in a recession. I know we need to save some, but it's a rainy day right now," he said. "It's raining out there."
This year, Lamont approved more than $600 million in tax cuts, but he's resisted calls from both parties to go even deeper in favor of paying down decades of long-term debt.
"We can get into a bidding war about who cuts more taxes, where. Or who increases more spending, where," Lamont said. "I have to be the guy that makes the choices."
Stefanowski and Lamont haven't battled each other face to face yet. That changes on Tuesday in the campaign's first statewide debate at NBC Connecticut. Independent Party candidate Rob Hotaling will participate too.