Some Of His Best Friends ...

Thomas Breen PhotoEx-Gold Coast investment banker Bob Stefanowski once wiped down seats at the Yale Bowl. And Timothy Herbst? He even has gay friends.

The two Republican gubernatorial candidates made those pitches Thursday night to members of the local party.

Stefanowski and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim Herbst both attended the Republican Town Committee’s (RTC) monthly meeting at 200 Orange St. to make their cases to New Haven voters in anticipation of the state party convention in May. It was the first in a series of opportunities for the crowded field of statewide candidates this year to try to convince the small but enthusiastic GOP in Democratic-dominated New Haven that they deserve its support — and that they can sell themselves to a city that last elected, say, a Republican mayor in 1951.

RTC chair Jonathan Wharton said that at least two Republican candidates for governor, and maybe even a few candidates for lieutenant governor, will be presenting at each of the next few New Haven RTC meetings so that New Haven Republicans can make an informed decision among a crowded field about which candidate to endorse. That endorsement will take place sometime in late April or early May, Wharton said. 

Stefanowski peppered his economic credentials and proposed remedies for the state’s financial woes with a handful of Elm City-specific details to illustrate his humble upbringing and longstanding reverence for fiscal responsibility.

He told the 40 local Republicans who attended Thursday night’s meeting that he was born at the Hospital of St. Raphael, that his dad worked for the Southern New England Telephone Company and ran the scoreboard at the Yale Bowl for 40 years, and that, although neither of his parents had college degrees, they paid for Bob and his sisters to become the first generation in his family to attend college. In his youth, Srefanowski said, he worked as a game-day usher at the Yale Bowl, wiping down seats for a quarter a piece while his dad operated the scoreboard.

He rose to become chief financial officer of UBS Investment Bank. In that role, he said, he managed a $500 billion balance sheet — ten times larger than the state of Connecticut’s budget. As a division officer at General Electric, he learned valuable lessons about how to negotiate with opponents and make tough decisions. These were skills, he said, that uniquely prepared him to run the state of Connecitcut, which he described as a “very big, troubled organization that needs to be turned around.”

“There are not a lot of candidates in this field right now that have run a business or a corporation or an organization the size of the state of Connecticut,” he said.

He said that his business background had prepared him to confront the state’s complex budgeting problems. He has rolled out an economic plan with former Reagan advisor and staunch supply-side economics supporter Arthur Laffer.

“If tax and spend hasn’t worked for the last 25 years, then we have to do something about it,” he said. He promised to get rid of the “death tax,” or estate tax; to “start playing offense on business” by lowering the corporate tax rate; and to “start to chip away” at the state income tax.

During the night, he and Herbst fielded questions from the local Republicans. Such as ...

What About Underfunded Pensions?

“How would you attack the biggest problem in the state budget: the unfunded pension liability issue,” asked former Republican state representative candidate Doug Losty. “You’d have to directly confront the state labor unions, and it will be a bitter fight.”

Stefanowski said that he was used to negotiating multi-billion dollar deals during his tenures at UBS and GE. He said that he would talk with the union bosses and the rank and file workers about reopening the discussion of the state labor contracts.

“If that doesn’t work, I’ll remind them that the firing freeze is only for four years,” he said, “and on year five, we’re going to privatize some serious stuff.”

One young Republican asked how Stefanowski could win over voters in cities like New Haven that lean overwhelmingly Democratic.

Stefanowski said that he would speak to urban voters about the benefits of reduced government spending and lower taxes on revitalizing the state economy.

“We’ve also got to get the cities to be more vibrant,” he said. “We used to have the New Haven Coliseum. I think the only place that’s left is Toad’s Place. The young people need more places to go.”

“Get With The Times”

Former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, who’s also running for the gubernatorial nomination, followed Stefanowski with an equally critical take on the state’s current finances. He said that the state’s looming budget deficit is already having a disproportionate impact on residents of cities like New Haven.

“We are seeing cuts to municipal aid, educational aid, social services, programs that directly impact people,” he said. “Why is that? The fixed costs in our budget continue to grow at rates that our income cannot sustain. It’s that simple.”

He said that he would lead by example if elected governor, and would refuse to take a pension from the state of Connecticut. He said that he would insist that his agency heads and staff do the same, and would argue that the part-time legislature also forsake its pension.

He also said that he was the only candidate for governor thus far to say that he will not accept campaign contributions from Hartford lobbyists, deriding “special interest Hartford insiders” as wreaking havoc on the state government.

But the crux of Herbst’s pitch was pension and benefit reform for public employees.

“I want to cut taxes too,” he said, “but we have to deal with this first. It’s crippling the state budget.”

He said that new employees should have to go into defined contribution plans, and that existing employees would need to contribute more to their pensions. He vowed to eliminate perks for pensions, like the ability to count overtime towards pensions.

“I’m not looking to hurt people,” he said. “I’m not looking to lay people off. But we have to get with the times, folks.”

Homophobia? “Outrageous”

RTC Chair Jonathan Wharton asked Herbst to respond to allegations by some state Democrats that Herbst had been homophobic in his criticism of Andrew McDonald, whom Gov. Malloy has nominated to be the next chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Herbst was quoted in a Jan. 8 CTMirror article calling McDonald, who is openly gay and had served as the governor’s chief counsel before being appointed as an associate justice on the state Supreme Court, a political appointee who is underqualified to serve on the court.

Herbst described the homophobia criticism as “absolutely ridiculous.”

“I have people who are supporting me that are gay,” he said. “I have friends of mine that are gay. That’s outrageous.”

He said that the governor’s appointment of a former chief legal counsel to the Supreme Court in the first place was “inherently a political appointment.”

“They [Connecticut Democrats and the media] accused me of that [homophobia] because they don’t want to be criticized,” he said. “And guess what? Sgt. Joe Friday said: Just the facts. Well then, stick to the facts. This has nothing to do with the person’s sexual orientation.”

Watch the complete presentations that Stefanoski and Herbst made to the New Haven RTC on Thursday night by clicking on the Facebook Live videos below.




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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 12, 2018  10:08am

He rose to become chief financial officer of UBS Investment Bank. In that role, he said, he managed a $500 billion balance sheet — ten times larger than the state of Connecticut’s budget. As a division officer at General Electric, he learned valuable lessons about how to negotiate with opponents and make tough decisions. These were skills, he said, that uniquely prepared him to run the state of Connecitcut, which he described as a “very big, troubled organization that needs to be turned around.”

I wonder did he know anything about this?

Special Report: How the U.S. cracked open secret vaults at UBS

Investors the world over breathed a sigh of relief on October 16 when the Swiss government rescued UBS. But unbeknownst to them at the time, the bank faced a potentially devastating crisis on a very different front.One day after the bailout, top executives from UBS and Swiss regulators were summoned to a closed-door meeting in New York by U.S. officials who were conducting a wide-ranging tax fraud investigation that centered on the bank.

UBS pays out in German tax case as lawsuits target private bank

posted by: JDoe on January 12, 2018  10:34am

Such great ideas coming from the GOP these days. Cut corporate taxes so the rich get even richer, get rid of the estate tax so billionaires like Sackler and Dalio get even richer and then go after pensions that the middle class have worked decades for so the lower and middle class get shafted again to further enrich the wealthy. I’m sure all that hedge-fund money will trickle down to we little people below. “Supply side” economics is total jive and has been shown to be such many times throughout history. Connecticut voters are too smart not to see this for what it is - yet another reverse Robin Hood Republican con job so sadly common in the Trump era.  Next.

posted by: 1644 on January 12, 2018  12:40pm

Calisto:  Or, cut corporate taxes so companies don’t move out of state and off-shore, as they have been doing.  If you don’t think this is a problem, you have been reading the business news for many years.  Our posted rate of 35% is way out of wack with the rest of the developed world, hence many corporate inversions. 
2.  Bring the CT estate tax in line with he federal so wealthy folks don’t move out of state.  The state exemption of 2.5 million is half the old federal one, and 25% of the new federal exemption.  The result is an exodus of people of means from the state to other states, seeking to preserve their estates.  I know folks like Wendy say they don’t care if the wealthy leave, but if we want to fund our schools and social services, as well as public employee pensions, etc., we need to care.  We do not live in a moral and fair world.  We live in the real world, where most folks seek to minimize their taxes and keep as much control over their wealth has possible.  This goes for 3/5’s, who wants to move to Panama; for Paul Tudor who moved to Florida, for my SNET retiree friend who moved to Fla., and even for Wendy, who did not include the state government in her philanthropies, but gave to private charities which she knew and felt would use the money in ways she approved of.

posted by: LookOut on January 12, 2018  1:34pm

Although I am not 100% aligned with either of these two, either would be a HUGE step forward for the state.  Anyone who does not admit that we are a fiscal train wreck with people and businesses moving out at an alarming rate should not even consider running.  And those who don’t think our tax and spend policies are poisonous must be kidding themselves.  My family will be watching this election very closely - another Dem is a sure sign there is no hope and we should/will begin to make plans to move ourselves and our business to a more responsible state.

posted by: JDoe on January 12, 2018  1:38pm

1644- The 35% you quote is an illusory standard republican talking point. It is actually way lower because of the many loopholes businesses take advantage of through their highly paid lobbyists that control Congress. Furthermore you surely know that Connecticut taxpayers have already forked over $115,000,000 to Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund, for the pleasure of staying in CT to wallow in their $1,500,000,000 federal tax cut (with special provisions for hedge fund managers). With friends like these, who needs enemies?

posted by: 1644 on January 12, 2018  1:56pm

correction:  ...not been reading…

posted by: BevHills730 on January 12, 2018  2:04pm

Wharton welcomes the Trump vultures who would destroy Connecticut’s middle class.

posted by: 1644 on January 12, 2018  2:38pm

Calisto: Yes, few actually pay the 35%, which is why I called it the posted rate.  But the US’s effective rate is far higher than the effective rates in other developed states.  The UK is pretty much the only place where the effective rate is about the same as the posted rate (about 20%).  Ireland, of course, is at 12.5% posted, and even lower effective.  Forbes is reporting the typical actual rate at about 25% in the US, far higher than foreign rates, thus the inversions.  In any case, this article isn’t about federal policy, but state.  If our state were more business friendly, perhaps we would not need to engage in Malloy’s handouts to a selected few, such as Bridgewater. CT prospered when it was a low-tax haven.  It has suffered since the adoption of the income tax and ever higher taxes and ever more generous social programs, with decades long economic stagnation. (New Haven is something of a island of growth, due to Yale.)

posted by: JayC on January 12, 2018  3:51pm

I am not well enough acquainted with Mr. Stefanowski to comment on him at the moment other than to note that CT Republicans should have already learned that their previous rich, self-funding candidates have been uniformly rejected by the State’s voters.  With respect to Mr.Herbst, his abysmal record of insults and invective in his own home town (resulting in his retirement from office) provide a sad commentary about a man clearly without judicious self-control.

posted by: 1644 on January 12, 2018  6:28pm

JayC:  Folley had his limitations as a candidate, but nonetheless did very well against Malloy.  In their first go-round, the margin was provided by Bridgeport, when Obama came to the city the Sunday before the election to energize voters.  In the flush of victory for our first black President, Bridgeport responded in record numbers, so many that thousands of ballots were photocopied and the polls remained open.  It was pretty obvious that CT Dems called to White House saying, We can win this, but ONLY with your help.”  For the rematch, Malloy flat-out lied about the state’s finances, going from a surplus before the election to a deficit shortly after.  In both elections, the numbers were very close.

posted by: JCFremont on January 13, 2018  1:46pm

I see The Independent changed its this stories headline to fit it’s normal snarkness that often begin when discussing GOP or other interloper candidates. The choosen profession, size of their house, cut and label of their clothes, followed by a when did you stop beating your wife questions.

posted by: 1644 on January 13, 2018  7:07pm

JC:  Yes, from the article, a minor part of the discussion, and certainly a minor issue for the state, but the sort of misleading, emotional hook for the left-wing crowd.  Somehow, when Trump nominates someone with no courtroom experience to be a district judge, it’s bad, but when Malloy puts someone with no courtroom experience on the Supreme Court, it’s okay.

posted by: 1644 on January 13, 2018  8:53pm

BTW, For someone from Fairfield County, who has been campaigning vigorously for months, Herbst’s fundraising numbers are very poor.  So are Stefanowski’s, but he really hasn’t been serious about fundraising, and I am not sure he is serious about campaigning.  Compare Obstinik, another CEO who has been getting out and about for months.  None of the Dems are doing well.  Remember, the key number is $250K, plus a buffer.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 13, 2018  11:28pm

There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat.

Gore Vidal

posted by: JDoe on January 14, 2018  9:55am

“... but the sort of misleading, emotional hook for the left-wing crowd.” Excellent point. The left wing is so emotional as opposed to the calm cool rationalism of Trump. It’s not like the Republicans ever exploit emotional Issues like abortion, trans bathrooms, deporting migrants, race, homosexuality in the military, delineating s**thole countries,  the “war on Christianity”; nope just sober analysis of the facts from Republicans.

posted by: 1644 on January 14, 2018  1:45pm

Yes, both sides play to emotions.  That doesn’t mean that the press has to, but it does.  Here NHI has taken a tangential and probably non-existent issue to get its predominantly left-wing readership drawn it.  Its not uncommon, as most of the press, especially the mainstream press, has long ago abandoned any pretense of dispassionate reporting for political and position advocacy.  The country has long been divided 50/50, but the press is nearly uniformly left leaning.  Fox News grew because the three major networks rarely respected the right wing pint of view, leaving a huge market open.  The right dominates talk radio and Fox, but the traditional print outlets are increasingly leftist, especially as local control has passed from families like the Jacksons to corporate owners contest to cede editorial control to their usually poorly paid staff.

posted by: Choxie on January 17, 2018  11:49am

@1644 You repeatedly cite CT needing to lower the corporate tax rate to both attract and keep businesses in the state. I’m curious about your thoughts on Alexion. The state/City of New Haven did exactly that and they are leaving anyway.

posted by: 1644 on January 17, 2018  1:54pm

Choxie:  The corporate rate I have written about is the federal one, which, at a posted rate of 35%, is way out line with international norms.  (Yes, many corporations pay less than the posted rate, but not all do and it still drives jobs overseas.). CT’s rate, at 9%, is higher than its neighbors at 8% (Mass), and 7% (NY&RI;).  Moreover, our personal income tax rate is higher than Mass., at 7% vs. 5% for high earners.  Alexion is really moving because its new CEO wants to live in Boston, but the fact that he and the rest of the companies top earners will pay less in come taxes doesn’t help.  Since Alexion is keeping much of its research staff here, the idea that it is moving for better employee pool seems weak at best.  For me, given our huge fixed liabilities, I don’t think we can lower taxes any time soon, but we do need to at least hold the line.  / We, also, need to be conscious of the total cost package the state imposes on business, not just taxes, but health insurance requirements, paid leave, labor law decisions, etc.  Many of our biggest taxpayers, e.g., hedge funds, are highly mobile.  We need to at least stop the bleeding.  Note: Many drug firms have relocated to Ireland, where the posted corporate rate is 12.5%.

posted by: Choxie on January 17, 2018  3:36pm

@1644 Please entertain me here, as I’m not arguing with you, just trying to understand the point of view/argument of conservatives (which I’m not saying you are/aren’t). If, as you say, we cannot ” lower taxes any time soon, but we do need to at least hold the line”, then what is all the rhetoric from the CT GOP about cutting state corporate taxes to attract businesses? Is a 1% difference between CT & MA state state tax going to make that much of a difference? If tax incentives aren’t enough to keep a homegrown CT business such as Alexion from simply moving on a whim, then why keep pushing the narrative of the need to lower state corporate taxes? You mention the “total cost package the state imposes on business, not just taxes, but health insurance requirements, paid leave…”, but correct me if I’m wrong, doesn’t MA have stricter requirements in those areas than CT?

posted by: 1644 on January 17, 2018  8:44pm

Choxie:  Yes, I am conservative. I am not sure to whom you are referring when you say ” all this rhetoric for the CT GOP.”  The CT GOP has many voices, and many candidates for Governor, and they do not all say the same thing.  Moreover, much of what they say, is, as you term it, rhetoric.  It may be more aspirational than an actual plan.  Yes, a cut in the corporate tax would, in the long term, attract more businesses to CT.  But these re-location decisions are not made on a whim,  They are made after careful thought and analysis, with particular attention to long term trends.  Here, holding the line is helpful.  I am referring to the first rule of holes:  when you ae in one, stop digging. It’s quite clear we are less attractive to business than many states. Yet many, even “pro-business” Dita B., want to keep digging by adding more burdens to businesses.  BTW, the one consistent thing I here from CT Gov. candidates is the need to curtail public employee benefits.  In the long term, cutting corporate taxes will attract business and grow the state.  In the short term, however, it will add to the deficit, because of the time lag between tax changes and business decisions.  So, we must first move to reduce costs before we reduce revenue.  (Just my opinion.  I am not JR Romano or any party spokesman.) Note also, many R’s, such as Lenny Fasano, want to keep digging, too, with making pensions tax-free etc. and other special favors for special groups.