EXCLUSIVE: Stemerman on $11B “Hole,” Online Sales Tax, Malloy “Bribes,” and Winning “Insiders’ Game”June 25, 2018
The businessman, who just put $10 million into his race for governor, talked to Reclaim Connecticut exclusively last week on a variety of topics.
Businessman David Stemerman, who just gained access, via petition, to the Connecticut Republican gubernatorial primary last week, looks like he’s all in for the five-way GOP race ending this August.
His campaign announced a $10-million investment into the race on Monday morning, an eight-figure commitment to running a hard campaign in the next two months and, Stemerman hopes, the fall general election campaign.
Stemerman spoke with Reclaim Connecticut exclusively last week on a number of topics.
Stemerman needed nearly 10,000 verified Republican signatures to gain primary ballot access. He submitted nearly 20,000, and gained ballot access last week, an achievement he noted in his talk with Reclaim Connecticut.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our collective effort to get on the ballot,” Stemerman said. “This is a real insiders’ games, to keep political outsiders like me off of the ballot.”
He also made sure to contrast himself with Gov. Dan Malloy (D-Conn.).
“Dan Malloy is a career politician. I’m a businessman. Dan Malloy knows how to spend your money. I know how to make money. Dan Malloy raised taxes again and again. I’m going to cut taxes for everyone.”
And he didn’t hold back when Reclaim Connecticut asked about Malloy’s practice of offering incentives to businesses to keep and retain jobs in Connecticut.
“Dan Malloy has had to use bribes and special deals in order to retain businesses to stay here,” Stemerman said, because “the tax rate and the business environment he’s created is so hostile and unwelcoming.”
Stemerman also made sure to contrast himself with his 2018 opponents too, though, if in a more implicit way.
“For people who are just getting engaged in this race, I ask them: do your homework, look at these plans, look at who has the details,” Stemerman said. “We are the only candidate of either party that has gone through with detailed proposals.”
Reclaim Connecticut asked Stemerman about a Twitter fight between several candidates that developed last week, and that Stemerman stayed out of.
“My focus is on improving the lives of the people of Connecticut,” the businessman said. “And you’ve seen me focused like a laser with my attention, with my message, to the voters of Connecticut, of what they care about.”
The issues voters care about? Stemerman is betting it’s cutting taxes and getting Connecticut’s fiscal house in order. Stemerman thinks he can do both.
Reclaim Connecticut asked Stemerman how he plans to both cut taxes and fix the state’s budget problem.
“I’m glad that you are publishing on your site about the size of the deficit,” Stemerman began. “While people speak on the campaign trail about the fiscal crisis, I think most of the candidates, as well as our citizens, don’t understand the magnitude of this challenge.”
“The reason that we have this structural budget deficit, first and foremost, is because of the unfunded retirement liabilities which are, at this point, like accumulated debt,” Stemerman said.
He called for restructuring retirement liabilities. “We cannot reform these benefits, we must restructure them,” Stemerman said.
“Then tax cuts,” Stemerman continued. “So my view is that tax cuts are not an option, they are a requirement. In my business, every day, we were either losing money or making money. And if we were losing money, we had to do something different.”
“Our tax rates are too high, they are uncompetitive,” Stemerman said. He called for cutting the personal income tax rate, as well as estate and gift taxes.
How does he plan to meet the corresponding hole in the budget that comes from tax cuts? About $2 billion a year in “cost savings,” Stemerman said, and $1 billion from “restructuring the tax code.”
“We are the only candidate on either side that can walk you through this math in any reasonable fashion,” Stemerman concluded.
Reclaim Connecticut also asked Stemerman about a recent Supreme Court ruling that states can collect online sales tax. Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano (R-North Haven) is calling on the state legislature to collect sales tax from online retailers, as a way of achieving parity with brick-and-mortar stores.
“My broad principle is that there should be fairness in our tax code with everybody who similarly situated paying a similar amount. And that is how you treat everyone fairly, and that’s by broadening the base, by treating everyone fairly, is how you can lower the rates for everyone. That is the approach I would take to all types of taxes, whether it be personal income tax, corporate income tax, or sales tax.”
Now comes the home stretch of a summer campaign that’s heating up, though. Stemerman’s $10 million, if nothing else, puts him all in.
But he’s been engaging with voters for months now.
“I view it’s critical to engage with our voters, even one on one, wherever they are and however they want to reach out with us,” Stemerman said.
“They are looking for someone who understands their lives and has the ability, the leadership, and knows the details of how they’re gonna get us out of [the rut].”
“We are introducing both me to the voters and the message of how we are going to improve peoples’ lives,” Stemerman said, “and we want to engage with our voters in as engaging and as creative a way with our voters as possible.”
The GOP primary is August 14.
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