An estimated 1,500 protestors gathered at the Capitol in May to rally against tolls.

Most people have a pretty good nose for sniffing out when someone is telling them the truth and when someone is lying to them.  It’s hard-wired into us.  We all have a gut instinct about who we can trust and who we can’t.

Bob Stefanowski mark pazniokas / ctmirror.org

When you consider the broken campaign promises, misinformation and outright lies about Connecticut’s transportation system, it’s not hard to understand why Gov. Ned Lamont has struggled to pass his signature tolling plan for close to a year now.  Connecticut residents have sniffed him out.  They simply don’t trust his administration anymore — and for good reason.

Last week on WTIC radio’s morning show, a caller asked Lamont why he diverted $170 million in new car sales taxes from the Special Transportation Fund to the General Fund.  Lamont told the caller he was wrong, saying “That’s a myth that gets perpetuated day in and day out and there’s just no truth to it.”

But it’s not a myth. The caller was absolutely right. The budget that Governor Lamont himself signed into law states: “The budget reduced the shift in sales and use tax revenues related to the sale of new motor vehicles from the General Fund to the Special Transportation Fund by $58.2 million in FY 20 and $113.4 million in FY 21.”  The sum of these two numbers is the $170 million mentioned by the caller — and denied by Governor Lamont.

If the CEO of a public company made a bold-faced lie to his shareholders on a $170 million issue, he would be fired immediately.  But in Connecticut politics, everyone simply looks the other way.

Democratic systems of government depend on an informed electorate. Without accurate information shared by the people we’ve elected to run our state, we can’t develop fact-based opinions on important policy issues. If we can’t trust our elected officials to tell us the truth, if they are deliberately deceiving us, the whole idea of a democratic system slips off the rails and the ride gets very bumpy.

Only by facing facts can we begin to fix Connecticut.

We have to admit that we will never be able to fully repay the $100 billion owed to the state employee pension plan.  We can continue to defer payments, but that only increases our overall debt.  We can pay down some debt by using a portion of the rainy-day fund.  We can continue to raise taxes.  But until we reform the terms and conditions of the plan and find a reasonable compromise, the debt load will drive the pension plan and ultimately our state into insolvency.

While Democrats are still raising taxes to deal with fast-growing interest payments on the crushing debt, the economy has already given up on carrying that burden.

Connecticut is now underperforming the region and the nation.  Continuing down this path will hurt state workers the most.  If these trends continue, there will be nothing left for one in three current state employees by the time they retire.

And it’s not just at the state level that we have a problem.  Many of the defined benefit pension plans for towns and cities are woefully underfunded.  At the University of Connecticut, $700 of every student’s tuition goes to covering the school’s unfunded pension liability -– money that could be used to reduce tuition to make college more affordable for Connecticut residents.

Shortly before he left office, Gov. Dannel Malloy confessed to the Hartford Courant, “Every cent of additional revenue that has come in since 2011 goes to pay pensions – teachers and state workers – and other post-employment benefits. Every single cent and more.”

Who would have believed it possible that after just 12 months of the Lamont administration, we would be looking back fondly on the Governor Malloy years?  At least Malloy stood up to the facts.

Whatever reasons politicians give for more taxes or tolls, the money doesn’t produce more jobs, put more teachers in classrooms, or even build new roads. It gets diverted to pay the debt on that big, looming elephant in the room — $100 billion of unfunded liabilities. The rest of what they claim is just a smokescreen for the truth.

Rahm Emanuel once said “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” With large majorities in the General Assembly and weary Connecticut residents more than ready for change, Governor Lamont could have seized the moment and turned the state’s focus towards fixing our spiraling debt crisis.  Instead, he spent a year twisting the arms of members of his own party, begging them to support tolls, while leaving the pension crisis for the next administration to deal with.

Connecticut is already the second highest taxed state in the nation on a per person basis.  Our economy can’t shoulder more taxes, even if we call them user fees.  We can’t afford to keep pretending that the debt crisis isn’t the real issue that cripples our state.  And we can’t afford another year of hollow rhetoric and misinformation out of Hartford that tries to avoid the responsibility our government has to fix it.

Bob Stefanowski was the 2018 Republican candidate for governor of Connecticut.

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9 Comments

  1. The greatest asset any political official, college president or trustee can possess is credibility. Credibility is an earned trust from the public’s they serve. Unfortunately it is missing in Connecticut.

  2. Please run again Bob! Lamont is proving he is not the change Connecticut needs, in fact he’s not a change at all.

  3. Yes, Lamont lied about the diversion. In addition to the state budget documents, there is video of rookie Senator Will Haskell during a June meeting in Wilton admitting the diversion occurred. Lamont’s budget did it. His lies don’t change that. The truth is available. Connecticut’s citizens are smart enough to see through the pro-toll propaganda coming from Lamont and his allies.

  4. I agree with nearly all that Mr. Stefanoswski writes here and I voted for him v Lamont. However, who’s looking back at the Malloy years fondly? The ONLY reason Gov Malloy ‘ stood up to the facts’ was because he was headed out the door and on to some nice cushy positions (good for him and his family), so he could say pretty much anything he wanted to. He could no longer be held accountable, not that he really was in this Deep Blue State.

  5. Lamont lied about diverting STF money into the General Fund. Does anybody think truck tolls will not become car tolls one day?
    Lamont and the Democratic legislature simply cannot be trusted.

  6. Mr Stetfanowski, thank you for sharing your opinions, knowledge and time. Please know, there are many, many residents who believe in you. However, you cannot fight alone. The misrepresentations, lies and malfeasense that has occurred in State Government is no secret. This information must be broadcast to the entire population now, not two months before an election. If a grassroots movement is what we need…so be it. Let’s ensure the truth decides the direction of our state and future.

  7. I will likely vote for a Republican governor next election. But I will not vote for the guy who said he is going to reduce taxes but cannot explain specifically how that will be accomplished without dramatically increase the debt on CT taxpayers.

  8. So you want to talk about lies and mistrust? How about your lies that you will eliminate the income tax, the largest single source of revenue for our state. Or the lie that we don’t need tolls or raising taxes to fund transportation? How do you borrow billions without raising taxes? You can’t, plain and simple. Voters saw through your lies and false promises which is why you lost the election despite a public so badly wanting change. Talk about mistrust.

  9. Bob Stefanowski, a Trump Republican-endorsed candidate for governor, lecturing CT residents on “truth,” and “fact-based opinions” illustrates the vacuous and feigned concern for both truth and facts by the Republican party.

    “If the CEO of a public company made a bold-faced lie to his shareholders on a $170 million issue, he would be fired immediately. But in Connecticut politics, everyone simply looks the other way.

    Democratic systems of government depend on an informed electorate. Without accurate information shared by the people we’ve elected to run our state, we can’t develop fact-based opinions on important policy issues. If we can’t trust our elected officials to tell us the truth, if they are deliberately deceiving us, the whole idea of a democratic system slips off the rails and the ride gets very bumpy”.

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