Citing Port Authority and State Pier, Stefanowski says Connecticut pays a ‘corruption tax’

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski and his running mate Lieutenant Governor Laura Devlin hold a press conference to denounce the costs of the Connecticut State Pier project Thursday, August 25, 2022 in New London. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski and his running mate Lieutenant Governor Laura Devlin hold a press conference to denounce the costs of the Connecticut State Pier project Thursday, August 25, 2022 in New London. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Local activists Kevin Blacker pose a question to Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, during a press conference to denounce the costs of the Connecticut State Pier project Thursday Aug. 25, 2022 in New London. Blacker announced that he was seeking Green Party endorsement to run for the 2nd Congressional seat. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

New London – Against the backdrop of pile drivers at State Pier and next to a visual with bars labeled “$93 million” and “over $242 million,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski on Thursday criticized Gov. Ned Lamont for lack of transparency and cost overruns on the offshore wind redevelopment project at State Pier.

Stefanowski said one tax he hasn’t talked about that “you’re going to hear a lot about” by November is the “corruption tax.” In addition to the State Pier project, he pointed out that the FBI is investigating school building grants, the misuse of COVID-19 relief funds in West Haven and the state’s past. COVID-19 testing contract with Sema4which is financially backed by the healthcare venture capital firm founded by the governor’s wife, Annie Lamont.

Stefanowski said the biggest example of a “corruption tax” is the Connecticut Port Authority, which oversees the State Pier project. Day columnist David Collins revealed last week that a federal grand jury had subpoenaed six years of Port Authority cases in an investigation into the quasi-public agency.

Stefanowski criticized the increase in the cost of the project from $93 million to over $242 million. (The latest estimate is actually $255 million.)

“Anyone want to guess who gets this overrun?” Think it’s Eversource? Of course not,” he said. “You think it’s Ørsted?” Of course not. Do you know who picks it up? You.”

He called it “disgusting,” saying the money could have been spent on education or adding state troopers. Stefanowski said he would have sat down with Ørsted and Eversource and said, “You’re going to get 100% of the overrun back and if you don’t we’re going to find two new partners.” He said the offshore wind deal should be restructured.

Asked what evidence he had that the cost overrun was due to corruption as opposed to other issues, Stefanowski said it would be easy for the governor to insist he didn’t s It was not bribery if he responded to requests from journalists under the Freedom of Information Act.

“He’s trying to bury them until after the election,” Stefanowski said.

Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, who was also at the press conference, said the public only gets information after kicking and screaming through demands for freedom of ‘information.

Rep. Laura Devlin, R-Fairfield, who is Stefanowkski’s running mate, criticized the port authority board for having “minimal, if any, maritime experience.”

Also alongside Stefanowski on the podium were Senator Heather Somers, R-Groton; Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme; Representative Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme; and Senator Henri Martin, R-Bristol.

In response to a question from Port Authority critic and Noank resident Kevin Blacker, Stefanowski said he thought it was a conflict of interest that former Port Authority Chairman Scott Bates is still Under Secretary of State and that he should resign.

Blacker said afterwards, “I thought it was great that they did this event to bring attention to something that is clearly wrong.” He said voters need information about what’s happening at State Pier ahead of the election, and he’d also like to hear from Democratic, Green and Libertarian candidates.

Stefanowski said he focused on the economy, but when Lamont “makes massive mistakes,” it’s his job to point them out. The Republican candidate began the press conference by saying he was “very, very happy earlier this week to see that Governor Lamont finally, finally admitted that he raised taxes.”

During a press conference on Tuesday, the American Republican journalist Paul Hughes pushed back on a tweet from Lamont’s campaign account which said he was the “first governor in 30 years not to raise taxes”, highlighting how Lamont raised the digital tax and expanded the sales tax.

The governor said unlike former governors Dan Malloy, Jodi Rell and John Rowland, he did not raise the income tax rate. He said of the tweet, “I don’t know what that means, but I can tell you we’re the first governor in 40 years not to raise tax rates, and you know what? We stick to that. We hold the line.

The governor called other tax increases “adjustments.”

“Were there any other adjustments along the way? I think there was,” Lamont said. “You mentioned online sales; we applied sales tax to that. I thought it was fundamentally unfair that restaurants and retail stores had to pay sales tax and you could buy it on Amazon tax-free, so we made some adjustments.

The Lamont campaign said it would send a statement in response to Stefanowski’s press conference.

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