Kurt Miller has his grading pen ready if voters make him the state’s next fiscal watchdog.
Miller, the Republican candidate for state comptroller in the Nov. 6 election, said he plans if elected to issue annual cards grading the governor and each state legislator on their performance on fiscal issues during legislative sessions.
Miller said during an interview Tuesday on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program that he’s prepared to be tough on members of both parties, even if that means bruising feelings. He called it part of the mission of the next comptroller to help “fix the finances of Connecticut” government, which is facing a new estimated two-year $5 billion budget deficit.
“The comptroller should be issuing a scorecard, nonpolitical, based on a set criteria attached to a strategic plan, and grade every single legislator, from the governor on down,” Miller said.
“It’s not a political thing. It’s about making good sound financial decisions,” Miller said of the annual scorecards. “If you’re the chief fiscal guardian, if you’re that independent voice up in Hartford, you need to be willing to do that. Because you’re there to represent the people ... The comptroller is supposed to be an independent position.”
Asked whether the legislators would need to return the report cards with their parents’ or guardians’ signatures, Miller responded: “I think that signature will come their guardians every two years on Election Day.”
The comptroller writes the checks for state employees, issues independent reports on the state’s finances, and is a voting member of the Bond Commission. He’s also responsible for managing Connecticut’s second-biggest health care account (covering state employees).
Miller is challenging incumbent Democrat Kevin Lembo, who was first elected in 2010, for the position. The last Republican to hold the office was Nathan G. Agostinelli, whose term ended in 1975.
Lembo has done an “exceptional job” managing the health insurance account, Miller said during the interview. “But that’s just one aspect of the position. ... The rest of the position he hasn’t done as well.” Miller said he would take a tougher stand on the Bond Commission against unwise borrowing and offer a fresher, informed perspective on managing government finances. As first selectman of Seymour, Miller has kept finances steady in part through budgeting in advance for state budget cuts and in part by increasing payments into the town’s rainy day and pension funds.
He said Tuesday that if elected he would move to have state government follow Seymour’s lead in preparing a 10-year strategic plan to guide year-by-year budget decisions.
“Right now we have no clear direction,” he said. “We’re a rudderless ship.”
Lembo, the first openly gay elected state official, was the target of a national pressure campaign organized by a Mississippi-based anti-LGBT-rights group. (Read about that here.) The group had members jam the comptroller’s phone lines and fill Lembo’s email box with hate messages (calling him “faggot” and “Satan”) after Lembo moved to remove the group from a list of approved charities to which state employees can direct paycheck-deducted contributions (through the Connecticut State Employees’ Campaign for Charitable Giving). State rules require participating companies to follow Connecticut’s nondiscrimination policy.
In Tuesday’s interview, Miller supported Lembo’s stance in that case. He said he wouldn’t change the rule, and he criticized the harassing calls as “out of bounds.”
“These folks from Mississippi don’t know Kevin. They don’t know the type of family man he is,” Miller said, referencing a moving seconding speech made a this summer’s Democratic nominating convention by Lembo’s and his partner’s son Charles.
“We need to focus on the goodness of people,” Miller said. “I’m not interested in a person’s religion or sexual orientation or color or creed.” The issue in his race, he said, is Connecticut’s fiscal situation, plain and simple.
Lembo declined repeated invitations to appear on “Dateline New Haven” either with or without Miller. Lembo has also refused to debate Miller.
Click on the play arrow to watch the full interview with Kurt Miller on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven.” Find out why Miller is living temporarily at the Corsair building on New Haven’s State Street.