In the final part of his interview with the Fairfield County Business Journal, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski discusses the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, keeping the state’s minimum wage where it is, and his thoughts on Dan Malloy, Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent Ned Lamont.
How do you go about improving the state’s infrastructure?
“Bring the private sector in. There’s a ton of money waiting to be invested. You need to know what you’re doing to negotiate these kinds of things. I’m in a pretty good position to do it.
“We have got to get high-speed rail in. That will help real estate values, as it has in other states and other countries.”
You’ve said you’re against Mr. Lamont’s proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage, from $10.10 to $15 an hour.
“That’s bringing it up 50 percent, which will choke middle- and small-sized businesses. I think we should leave it where it is. Otherwise you’re passing (the increase) on to consumers, or companies will automate more and put people out of work. Tolls, increasing the minimum wage, those are exactly what we don’t need.”
Mr. Lamont and others have proposed legalizing the recreational use of marijuana as a revenue driver. Why are you against that?
“I want to see a test for sobriety first, like we have for alcohol, which I’m pretty sure is not in use anywhere. The results from (legalizing) in Colorado have been mixed. Medical marijuana, absolutely, but when it comes to recreational, we need more protections before we do that. We have to put safety first.”
What about sports betting as a way to create revenue?
“Everyone else has it, so we should take a look, too. With what’s going on with MGM, the tribes and online, we have to have an overall solution to gambling. But it’s got to be the right approach.”
On Oct. 1 you launched the “Connecticut Women for Change’’ coalition, which is being led by Republican National Committeewoman Leora Levy of Greenwich, national Republican strategist Noelle Nikpour and your wife, Amy. What do you expect to come from that?
“They’re going to focus on the issues out there that are important to women, and provide more direct feedback on what’s on people’s minds. It’s a statement that I’m committed to addressing the concerns of women, which I am.”
It’s been alleged that one result of your elimination of the income tax would be skyrocketing health care costs. How do you respond?
“First off, I’m totally for protecting those with pre-existing conditions. I’ve never said anything other than that. It’s codified in state law and it should stay that way.
“My mom died a year ago, and my dad burned through what he’d worked all his life to save in three years to take care of her. I’m not in favor of the single-payer model. We need more options. We need more choice, more affordable health care, at the most cost-effective prices.”
You feature your father in one of your TV ads. Did it take some convincing to get him to do that or was he gung-ho about it?
“Oh, he was gung-ho. He’s a great example of Connecticut. He went to Hillhouse High School in New Haven, met my mom there when he was 15. They were together for 60 years. He worked for the phone company and they saved their money, never bought a new car, took a week’s vacation in Maine. Then I watched him writing $5,000 checks a week to take care of my mom.
“But (the election) has re-energized him. It’s really helped his spirits quite a bit. He’s proud of me.”
I’m assuming you took some heart from State Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s remarks that the state could end Fiscal Year 2019 in the black, if only by $164.2 million?
“I was happy to hear it, but we have to be careful. A lot of that was because of a one-time repatriation due to the federal tax cut. Ned Lamont likes to trash the tax cut that came out of Washington, but this just shows what a good tax policy can do.”
Have you met Donald Trump?
“No, I never have.”
You’ve been compared to him, unfavorably, by your opponent. I’m not going to ask you to comment on Trump’s policies one by one, but where do you agree with him?
“I like his economic policy. I like that he puts America first. He’s been revising a lot of lousy deals we’ve been involved with, and he’s proven that a businessperson’s approach can work. National GDP grew in the second quarter (gross domestic product increased at a 4.2 percent annualized rate, the Commerce Department said last month), and I’m eager to see what it did in the third quarter. We could use some of that economic policy in Connecticut.”
You’ve been a vocal critic of Governor Malloy. What’s one thing that he did as governor that you agreed with?
“The flippant answer would be his decision not to run again. (Long pause) I don’t really have anything I can point at.”
Do you believe you have any common ground with Mr. Lamont?
“The need to fund education, to take care of that and health care. We both see the need to invest in those things. It’s just that our means to those goals are different.”
If elected, what is the first thing you would do as governor?
“Get the economy moving, lower taxes, cut spending. Getting the economy moving is my No. 1 priority. Doing that will allow us to raise revenues for education, health care, all the other things we want to do.
“I’ve enjoyed campaigning, meeting people and hearing what’s on their minds. People are dying for somebody in there (the governorship) who gets it.”