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Monday, August 4, 2014

GOP primary contenders argue over specifics

STRATFORD, Conn. – Republican gubernatorial candidate John McKinney jumped at the chance to accuse his primary opponent of not offering voters a plan as detailed as his proposal to tackle future state budgets and eliminate the personal income tax on middle-class earners.

“If Tom Foley were standing here today, he would present you his plan and it would look like this: a blank piece of paper. Because he has no plan,” said McKinney, the minority leader of the state Senate, as he waved a white sheet of paper before a group of reporters. ...

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STRATFORD, Conn. – Republican gubernatorial candidate John McKinney jumped at the chance to accuse his primary opponent of not offering voters a plan as detailed as his proposal to tackle future state budgets and eliminate the personal income tax on middle-class earners.

“If Tom Foley were standing here today, he would present you his plan and it would look like this: a blank piece of paper. Because he has no plan,” said McKinney, the minority leader of the state Senate, as he waved a white sheet of paper before a group of reporters.

The two are running different primary campaigns. McKinney, the underdog in the Aug. 12 matchup and a 15-year veteran of the General Assembly, produced a spreadsheet to explain his proposed budget changes. He’s pointed out specific things he would cut, including the state’s earned income tax credit and non-union state management jobs. Foley, the party’s endorsed candidate, appears to be looking to the general election, acknowledging he plans to release more detailed policy proposals on urban issues, health care and the economy in late summer or early fall.

He has focused much of his campaign on the state’s economy, saying his business experience will help “bring back a bustling economy” and his “sensible policies” will bring fiscal order and bring back good-paying jobs.

McKinney has made an issue of whether Foley is backing up those broad promises of restoring economic growth and prosperity to Connecticut with substance. McKinney says Foley’s responses on the issues are “often, if not always, vague.”

But Foley, a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland and founder of the NTC Group, which acquired companies, and who hasn’t held elected office, contends he has been very specific so far.

When he announced his candidacy, Foley called for a half percent cut in the state’s 6.35 percent sales tax. He has also called for the elimination of the state’s $250 business entity tax and proposed a review of the state’s tax structure.

“I think actually that piece of paper would have had more information on it about my plan than his does,” Foley shot back, adding that McKinney’s proposal provides “very narrow” tax relief, while his proposal would help more people. “The sales tax affects everybody in Connecticut. You can’t be more broad-based than that,” he said.

Foley narrowly lost to Malloy in 2010. In his 2014 rematch attempt, Foley has made Malloy’s job performance a key issue. He said criticism of him not being specific enough is a “classic hit” candidates put on their opponents and denies he is trying to avoid taking controversial positions during the primary.

“I’ve been very specific on education reform. I’ve talked about, at least initial thoughts, on an urban agenda and getting control on spending,” he said. “I think I’m way ahead of them on specifics.”

Foley has avoided providing details about why he dislikes the gun control legislation, passed in 2013 after the Newtown school shooting. While McKinney supports and helped to craft the legislation, which expanded the state’s ban on assault weapons and barred large-capacity ammunition magazines, Foley has taken a more nuanced stance. He says he supports the Second Amendment but understands a legislative response was necessary. Yet he criticizes the law for not doing more to address mental health issues and for including gun control measures that “wouldn’t have made a difference in what happened in Newtown.”

Foley said it doesn’t make a difference where he stands on barring large-capacity magazines, for example, because the law is in place.

“I don’t want to talk about what I would have done. I want to talk about what I’m going to do,” he said. “And I’ve said that if the legislature comes to me with changes to the gun control bill that lighten up the burdens and restrictions on law-abiding citizens, because I think that’s good public policy, I’ll sign it. But it’s up to the legislature. It’s not up to me.”