With just two weeks left before the Republican primary, gubernatorial contender John P. McKinney unveiled new ads Tuesday that promise a middle-class income tax cut as the centerpiece of a new state budget-balancing plan.

McKinney’s web site provides a broad outline of the plan – which begins the cut in the 2nd year of the next term – but it doesn’t specify how much relief households would receive. Campaign spokeswoman Jodi Latina said a detailed version would be released on Thursday.

The 30-second spot titled “Putting Taxpayers First,” which began running late Tuesday on Connecticut television and radio stations, is straightforward, with McKinney and his running mate, former U.S. Comptroller David Walker, delivering their message.

McKinney: “Connecticut is facing a financial crisis. That’s why Dave Walker and I developed a plan to grow our economy and provide critical tax relief.”

Walker: “Our plan puts taxpayers first by eliminating income taxes on middle class families, cutting wasteful spending and shrinking state government.”

McKinney: “It’s a good plan. …”

Walker: “… An honest plan that will bring major change to Hartford.”

The “crisis” McKinney cites includes the nearly $1.4 billion deficit that nonpartisan fiscal analysts say is built into the first new budget after the election. That represents more than 7 percent of annual operating costs.

In an interview with The Mirror earlier this month, McKinney said simply closing the $1.4 billion projected deficit would be very difficult. Because of that, he said, he probably could offer only modest tax relief in his first budget. McKinney, the state Senate minority leader from Fairfield, specifically suggested either a sales or gasoline tax reduction.

Though the plan talks about “eliminating income taxes on middle class families,” it likely refers to eliminating a portion, and not all income taxes, unless it involves phasing out the tax over many years. Using U.S. Department of Commerce income ranges for middle-income households, this group pays about $2 billion in state income tax revenues here through paycheck withholding alone. And that doesn’t include any other middle-class earnings tied to capital gains or other investment income.

According to the rough outline posted on the campaign web site, McKinney and Walker’s plan to close the deficit – and finance some type of middle class tax cut – hinges on reversing programs expanded by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy since he took office in 2011.

But the GOP candidates stipulate they won’t cut funding for: municipal aid for education and road repairs; Medicaid; or for debt service. And education aid has been one of the largest areas of growth under the Democratic governor’s administration.

McKinney and Walker’s plan also would be achieved by:

Spending cuts stemming from “a fair set of concessions” to be sought from state employees, with a focus on cutting the cost of worker health plans and “pension reforms.”

And a reduction in the overall size of state management positions.

In the last poll from Quinnipiac University, released May 9, Foley held a wide lead over McKinney and what-was-then a more crowded field of Republican gubernatorial contenders. Foley, the party’s 2010 nominee, won the Republican State Convention endorsement in mid-May and is the only other candidate on the GOP gubernatorial primary ballot.

“I certainly support cutting taxes,” Foley said Wednesday. And while he didn’t comment on McKinney’s proposal, Foley did say that after the deficit has been closed, he wants to work with the legislature to develop “comprehensive tax reform.”

The Greenwich businessman also repeated his pledge to trim one-half of 1 percentage point off of Connecticut’s 6.35 percent sales tax rate and to end the business entity tax on companies with fewer than 50 employees.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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