In the News

Boughton back at work at Danbury City Hall

DANBURY – Don’t be surprised if Mayor Mark Boughton says something surprising as the November election season matures, and he makes a decision about a 2018 gubernatorial run.

Emergency life-saving brain surgery can affect a man that way.

“I do think there is a message here about how to look at things – differently,” said Boughton on Monday, his first official day back at City Hall after treatment to remove a benign brain tumor. “I have always thought I have been very compassionate, but this has taught me things.”

For now that is as specific as the eight-term Republican wants to be about how getting a second chance at 53 has affected him as a politician.

A man of faith, Boughton has been candid with The News-Times about crying and praying for forgiveness the night before his surgery as he felt the weight of his life upon him.

On Monday, Boughton said he has been prayerfully reexamining his life since Aug. 8, when a surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center removed a lemon-sized cyst from his brain.

“Those are long days when you’re alone – I mean my sisters were there and they were awesome – but I was in ICU and they could only be there for two hours at a clip,” Boughton said. “You are alone a lot and you start thinking about all this stuff.”

Boughton appeared refreshed and collected in a blue tweed sports coat and a new scar curving above his left ear. His third-floor office at City Hall was decked with a welcome-back banner, balloons and get-well cards.

He grew teary-eyed several times during a brief, mid-morning interview, once after the sight of his clapping staff, and again as he returned to the theme he referred to as the bigger picture.

“I didn’t get called home, so I may be looking at things a little differently,” he said, sitting down to a desk of presents and papers to sign. “I am going to think about it some more, and when issues arise you very well could hear something different from me than you have heard before.”

Boughton, one of the GOP’s leading candidates for governor, plans to decide whether to run after the November 7 mayoral election, where he is seeking an unprecedented ninth two-year term.

A self-described compassionate conservative, Boughton is the second top-tier GOP gubernatorial contender to undergo serious surgery this year. In the spring Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst had surgery to treat thyroid cancer.

Boughton’s first priority is to get back to full strength – a goal that may take no longer than one month to reach, he said, by gradually increasing exercise and workload.

Although he is not yet back to work full-time, Boughton said he is back in spirit 100 percent.

The mayor’s fans, who know he likes to joke, sensed he was back to his old self last week, when he appeared for his usual Thursday morning radio spot and said he needed brain surgery like he needed a hole in the head.

The truth is Boughton started telling jokes as he came out of anesthesia.

“I was coming out of it with the surgeon and the anesthesiologist and nurses, and I was making jokes but they weren’t making any sense, except to my sisters,” Boughton said on Monday. “So my sisters, who have been with me for 50 years, knew what I was trying to say and they were laughing, but the doctor is like ‘Oh, no. What did I do?’”


Hitting the Ground Running
Friends,

I want to personally thank each and every one of you for your encouragement, well wishes and prayers throughout my recent surgery and recovery. I am proud to report that the procedure was a success and I feel better than before. I am excited to return to Danbury today, stronger than ever.

Make no mistake – I’m still moving full steam ahead to fight for Connecticut’s successful future, but I cannot do this alone. I would be honored if you would stand with me and invest in Connecticut’s Comeback. I hope you will join us at one of our events in August.

Together, we will rise to any occasion that is put in front of us and continue fighting for Connecticut’s Comeback. I hope to see you all soon and for more information or to donate please visit www.ct-comeback.com.

Mark


Mayor Mark Boughton out of surgery for brain tumor, recovering well

Doctors successfully removed a benign tumor from Mayor Mark Boughton’s brain during a complex procedure Tuesday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Boughton went into surgery about 7 a.m. and doctors finished the operation about 2:30 p.m., hours earlier than expected, said his sister, Donna Moore. Moore and another sister accompanied Boughton to Pittsburgh.

Moore told Hearst Connecticut Media that Boughton’s surgeon, Dr. Robert Friedlander, thinks he was able to remove the entire tumor, and that her brother was conscious and speaking just over an hour after the operation was complete.

Moore said Boughton was just waking up from the anesthesia when she and her sister visited him in the Intensive Care Unit, and despite his grogginess immediately recognized them both. Within 15 minutes, she said, he was sitting up in bed with his glasses on and talking to them.

“He is doing great,” she said. “It was more emotional for my sister and me … you always worry when someone has surgery, but he’s tough as nails.”

She said Boughton, who had a bandage on his head, told her he was glad the surgery was over and that he was very tired.

Boughton, 53, is running for his ninth term as mayor while exploring a run for governor. He learned about the tumor’s existence only recently, when he started suffering headaches and dizzy spells, and decided to have surgery as quickly as possible.

A top-tier Republican contender for governor in 2018, Boughton has said he expects to resume work on a limited basis in about two weeks.

The lemon-sized tumor is of a type known as an epidermoid cyst, which grows slowly over years or even decades and is rarely cancerous.

Dr. Jennifer Moliterno, a brain tumor surgeon at Yale New Haven Hospital who has removed many epidermoid cysts, said such tumors are not common.

They tend to grow around nerves that control facial functions, hearing and more, she said.

“The prognosis is good because it’s benign,” Moliterno said. “It can be a challenging surgery for the surgeon, because there’s a lot of important arteries, nerves and other neurological structures in the vicinity where you’re working. But in experienced and capable hands, a patient can have a very successful outcome.”

She said usually these tumors require only one surgery, even if a small amount of the cyst has to be left behind.

Just before the surgery began, Boughton tweeted, “It’s time. Thank all of you for your good wishes and prayers. God has the wheel now. “Clear eyes, full heart.’”

The last phrase is a reference to a famous scene from television’s “Friday Night Lights.” The full quote is, “Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.”


Important Update

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

During a recent checkup, doctors discovered an epidermoid cyst located in my brain. After discussions with my doctor and several medical professionals, we have determined that the best course of treatment is the immediate removal of the cyst. I will be undergoing the surgery this week at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and my medical team has assured me with great confidence that I will make a full recovery.

I would like to express my gratitude to the medical professionals at Danbury Hospital as well as Dr. Robert Friedlander of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center who will be performing the surgery. We are confident that the removal of the cyst will be a one-time procedure without the need for additional surgery or medical intervention. I expect to be back serving the people of Danbury within a few weeks.

As Mayor, I have the responsibility to be a steward of the public trust. It is with that sentiment in mind that I wanted to share this turn of events with all of you. I am very fortunate that my health will be improved after this procedure, and I am reminded of all of the people that must endure much more rigorous treatments.

Thank you all so much for the outpouring of support and encouragement. Together, we will rise to any occasion that is put in front of us and continue fighting for the City of Danbury and Connecticut’s Comeback. God bless each of you.

Sincerely,

Mark D. Boughton


Boughton: Income tax phase-out is one piece of 10-year plan

Danbury — As he explores seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2018, Mayor Mark Boughton is standing out in a crowded field by testing a message not seriously proffered in two decades: a call for elimination of the state’s income tax.It’s his third time looking at a run for Connecticut’s top office — and his first as a candidate who suggests the state could live without the current source of nearly half its revenue, $9 billion in a state that spends $20 billion on state government, public assistance and local aid.

Boughton is proposing a gradual phase-out of the income tax over several years as one component of a 10-year “pro-growth” strategy that he says he will unveil piecemeal over the next four to six months. He doesn’t come close to explaining what would replace it, but suggests it’s time for a new fiscal debate.

“Connecticut is the Land of Steady Habits,” Boughton said. “Well, we’ve seen where our steady habits have gotten us – billions of dollars of deficits, billions of dollars of unfunded liabilities and Aetna and GE leaving the state and many, many more to follow.”

“The fact of the matter is, Connecticut was successful when we didn’t have an income tax,” he said.

Boughton has offered some rough ideas on the other components he believes could be incorporated into the full plan, including deep government spending cuts and significant labor savings. He offers no specifics on what new revenue he finds preferable to a tax on income.

“If it’s part of a comprehensive approach, you may have to flatten some taxes,” Boughton told the CT Mirror. “Maybe some of the strategies we used prior to the income tax, we may have to go back to some of those things.”

Connecticut had an income tax long before the broad-based tax on wages was adopted in 1991. It applied to capital gains, interest and dividends, just not wages. The tax was 7 percent on capital gains and as much as 14 percent on interest and dividends. The sales tax was 8 percent.

Would Boughton return to those rates?

His campaign says he has not made any decisions on taxes at this point beyond elimination of the income tax.

Boughton, the eight-term Republican mayor of Connecticut’s fastest growing city, said he is bringing “innovative and creative ideas” to the table – the same process that he says led to his success in growing business and industry in Danbury. He is running for a ninth term this year while exploring a bid for governor.

Before his election as Danbury’s mayor in 2001, he won two terms in the state House of Representatives, which he says gives him the combination of executive and legislative experience.

After failing to raise enough funds to qualify for public financing in 2014, he declined to pursue the GOP gubernatorial nomination in a primary, despite winning enough support at the state convention to make it onto the ballot.

He explored a run for governor in 2010, but settled for becoming the nominee for lieutenant governor.

Boughton said he began exploring another campaign for governor as early as he did this year to get a head start on fundraising. He remains near the front of the pack with about $162,000 raised through the first two quarters of 2017, but other Republicans – both declared and exploring – made significant gains on him in the second quarter.

Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, a declared candidate, has raised $145,000 since April. Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, R-Glastonbury, also a declared candidate, has topped $200,000.

Boughton said if he reaches his target of qualifying for public financing by January, he will formally declare his candidacy.

A controversial proposal

Boughton’s critics have decried elimination of the income tax as politically and economically unrealistic given the state’s budgetary challenges. The last major party nominee to call for the repeal of the income tax was John Rowland in 1994.

A prolific tweeter, Boughton responded to one critic who asked if more details about the income tax repeal would be made available.

“Sure. When I am actually a candidate. This is a vision,” he replied.

Boughton said those asking for more details now should realize he does not have the staff of the governor’s budget office working for his campaign. He said the pieces will be released as the details are worked out.

The proposal to phase out the income tax, which he made last month, comes amid a years-long budget squeeze, and state officials and lawmakers are now grappling with multibillion-dollar annual deficits.

Lawmakers have yet to agree to a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Boughton said state leaders are muddled because they are stuck in an “old way” of thinking – that the baseline should be $20 billion in spending. He said both the House and Senate Republican budget proposals fail to break away from that mindset, and don’t go far enough.

Still, Boughton said he knows his plan is “counterintuitive.” A gradual phaseout rather than an outright elimination, he said, gives him the time to shrink government and win major labor concessions to keep the state budget in balance.

The current deadlock, of course, shows neither is easy.

He said he is counting on being able to achieve significant labor savings when contracts for state employee union benefits expire in 2022. That may not be possible, however, if union members and legislators agree to a concessions deal that would extend the benefits contacts through 2027. Voting is ongoing and results are expected Monday.

He said ratification of the deal would set back his timetable for phasing out the income tax.

Boughton also said he plans to shrink state agencies by eliminating high-paid bureaucrats, which he said include deputy commissioners and spokesmen.

He envisions making up the remainder of the difference through increased revenue from the sales tax as state residents have more take-home pay to spend. New businesses relocating to Connecticut would bring more economic vitality, he says.

Boughton said the nine states without an income tax have experienced the kind of economic growth Connecticut needs.

“For anybody that argues that it’s a stunt, I’d say I would point to the other nine states that are doing exceptionally well, or just ask them to talk to any of your friends, and you tell me where they say they’re going to retire to – because it’s not Connecticut,” he said.

Short-term pain, potential roadblocks

But Boughton said he understands that with smaller, leaner government comes pain. Phasing out the income tax would make the task of building a balanced budget more onerous each year. And programs that some of the state’s neediest rely on may not see their current funding levels maintained.

He said under his plan, perhaps more than ever, the state would need to prioritize its spending on public education, public safety and programs that provide people “an opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty.”

And allocating money for even the most basic services could grow more difficult if the federal government adopts policies that would mean billions of dollars less for Connecticut in coming years.

The Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Act Care could prove to be one of the costliest blows to the state if it passes. Under the first draft of the repeal-and-replace plan released by Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate, the state would be hit with a $2.9 billion annual cut to Medicaid funding by 2026, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office estimates.

That’s why Boughton says he does not support the legislation in its current form, though he made clear he does not believe the Affordable Care Act is working.

“I think there is definitely an argument among states that have expanded their Medicaid, that to go back from that would be catastrophic,” he said. “Ohio has that problem. Some other places have that problem. And Ohio has a Republican governor. We’ll have to see how all that plays out. But whatever comes out of that, we’ll certainly tailor our program to that.”

Even if these pitfalls are avoided, Boughton has no illusions that enacting his strategy would be easy.

“The first four years will be very difficult implementing some of things that we’ve talked about,” Boughton said. “We’ll have our share of battles, because it is going to require some pain. But with pain, we bring real tax relief and growth to our economy.”


Mark Boughton: A Plan to Phase Out the Income Tax

It’s not surprising Aetna has decided to move its corporate headquarters out of Hartford, but the lack of surprise does not make it less of a jolt to our state’s failing economy. Meanwhile, the same old refrain regarding tolls, the legalization of recreational marijuana, and “taxing the rich” for more revenue keeps coming from media pundits and politicians at the Capitol.

Connecticut faces a budget crisis and our residents often must choose between suffering or moving out of state. The situation has become unsustainable. Before we can fix the problem, we must understand how Connecticut ended up in this position.

Connecticut flourished as a state without an income tax. Our cities thrived, our population grew, people had good jobs that supported a family and the most vulnerable had a safety net they could count on.

The state income tax is the primary driver of Connecticut becoming less competitive and less affordable. According to published reports, more than 235,000 people have left our state, taking $13.7 billion in taxable income with them. This trend seems to verify the old adage, “you can’t tax your way to prosperity.”

Like it or not, Connecticut is in a regional competition with states like Massachusetts and New York for jobs, and the businesses that create those opportunities. Since the implementation of the state income tax, Connecticut has become less affordable for residents and much more anti-business than our neighboring states. When Massachusetts seems like a tax haven compared to Connecticut, you know we have a tax issue that we must wrap our collective arms around.

For the last 40 years, the Democrats have controlled the state legislature and have recklessly spent the state’s tax revenues. In 1991-92, the state budget totaled $7.6 billion. The 2016-2017 budget clocked in at $19.76 billion. Even after adjusting for inflation, this explosion in government spending has been devastating to our state’s economy. This outrageous spending was made possible by the implementation of the state income tax.

How can we afford to repeal the income tax? Connecticut must acknowledge that this a critical moment for our state. Under our current tax structure, we are in a perpetual state of financial crisis. We have an opportunity to dramatically reshape state government, including eliminating the income tax. The writing is on the wall and our current path is clearly unsustainable. The reality is we cannot afford to keep this tax in place. Nothing short of bold leadership and dramatic change will stop the bleeding.

Nine states thrive without an income tax. According to Forbes Magazine, economic growth in those states grew nearly 50 percent faster between 1998-2008 than it did in the nine states with the highest top personal income tax rates. Job growth climbed more than twice as fast in those states without income taxes, compared to the states with the top income tax rates. We need to look at these success stories and implement similar fiscal policies here in Connecticut to get our economy moving.

Many will argue that eliminating the income tax will unfairly benefit the wealthy, but the opposite is true. When the income tax was implemented, it shifted the tax burden from our wealthiest residents onto the middle class because the income tax replaced the capital gains tax of 7 percent, as well as 14 percent tax on major interest. Promises that the income tax would reduce property taxes never materialized, only adding to the pain of Connecticut’s families. Simply put, eliminating the income tax will benefit all of Connecticut’s residents regardless of socioeconomic status.

We need to focus on core state government services such as plowing highways, educating our youth, keeping people safe and ensuring that those who cannot care for themselves receive the help they need. I have always been an advocate of these core government services and that will not change. When we talk about innovation and reform one example that should be employed is the creation of an education equity fund that would remove state education dollars away from the political process and toward a more impartial procedure.

There is no simple, painless way with which to eliminate the state income tax. But I am committed to working with the best and brightest to restore Connecticut to its former glory. Our plan to eliminate the income tax is a comprehensive approach. It redesigns and reorganizes state government and examines the nexus between municipalities and the state.

Connecticut is a great place to raise a family and we have wonderful schools and tremendous talent. We need to get back to a sustainable, and most importantly attractive, pathway forward. I am willing to ask the tough questions and to have the hard conversations.

Mark Boughton, a Republican eight-term mayor of Danbury, is exploring a run for statewide office in 2018.


Boughton pushes for state income tax repeal

Mark Boughton is molding himself as the anti-Lowell P. Weicker Jr.

The longtime Danbury mayor — trying to separate himself from a pack of Republicans with gubernatorial ambitions — wants to abolish the state income tax ushered in by Weicker a quarter-century ago.

Connecticut has a spending problem, not a revenue problem, said Boughton, who blamed the income tax for the exodus of residents and businesses to other states. Since it came onto the books, he said, the state has lost $13.7 billion in net adjusted gross income.

Boughton would offset lost income-tax revenue with a downsizing of state government and regionalization of some municipal services.

“Obviously, one only has to look at companies like Aetna and GE,” he said. “I recently met with some portfolio managers in lower Fairfield County. Probably 70 to 80 percent of them are leaving.”

Boughton’s Reaganesque vision of tax cuts spurring economic growth coincides with an impasse between Republicans and Democrats over how to close a $5 billion, two-year state budget deficit.

The concept quickly drew plaudits and skepticism during a recent rollout by Boughton, who is raising money for a presumptive run for governor in 2018, in what would be his third shot at the state’s top office. The income tax accounts for $9 billion of the $15 billion in annual tax revenue collected by the state.

“I tell Mark Boughton to get with the real world,” Weicker said. “We’re way past the point in this state where that’s in any way conceivable. All that’s going to mean is a huge sales tax, and that will really hurt the lower-income families in our state.”

History of Controversy

A former Republican who ascended to the governor’s office under the banner of A Connecticut Party, Weicker signed the income tax into law in 1991 with support from Democrats. Connecticut became the 41st state to levy an income tax, with the top marginal rate now at 7 percent for single filers with annual incomes over $500,000.

Weicker, a former U.S. senator and ex-Greenwich first selectman, said his immediate successor vowed to do the same as Boughton proposes.

“This is what John Rowland said he was going to do,” Weicker said. “I’m sure we’d all like to get rid of it. Just take a look at how much in debt we are with the income tax. You’re obviously going to have to raise corporate taxes, the very thing you’re trying to avoid.”

But Boughton’s stock among conservatives, led by CNBC’s Larry Kudlow, appeared to be on the uptick with his call to repeal the state income tax. The one-time Ronald Reagan budget guru and Redding resident tweeted “Right On!” at Boughton Monday night.

“It’s the right spirit,” Kudlow told Hearst Connecticut Media. “I don’t know if it’s the right precise policy. Whichever Republican runs in 2018, they’ve got to understand this: You’re not going to balance the budget or significantly reduce the deficit or, for that matter, attract new people and new businesses to the state unless you have growth-oriented tax cuts across the board. If the GOP runs root canal with Novocaine — just cutting the budget, cutting pensions for state workers and so forth — they’re not going to win.”

On top of the income tax, Kudlow said, taxes on corporations, property and inheritance, as well as regulations, make Connecticut one of the least competitive states.

“Who the hell wants to move to Connecticut?” Kudlow said. “It’s a tragedy. It’s a great state.”

S.E. Cupp, the conservative CNN talking head, also took notice of Boughton’s proposal.

“Yaaaassss, @MayorMark,” she tweeted Tuesday.

Boughton can use the additional exposure in a logjam of Republicans with gubernatorial hopes, which includes Tim Herbst, Trumbull’s first selectman; Peter Lumaj, the GOP’s 2014 nominee for secretary of the state; and Dave Walker, the former comptroller general under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Also on that list are Mark Lauretti, the longtime Shelton mayor; Prasad Srinivasan, a state representative from Glastonbury; Steve Obsitnik, a Westport businessman; Toni Boucher, a state senator from Wilton; and Joe Visconti, a former West Hartford councilman.

Themis Klarides and Len Fasano, the GOP leaders of the state House and Senate, haven’t ruled out running. Neither has Fasano’s predecessor, Fairfield’s John McKinney.

‘Here’s an opportunity’

Connecticut’s Republican Party boss from 2011 to 2015, Jerry Labriola Jr., said it takes courage to propose wholesale changes the way Boughton has.

“It’s bold, and not many candidates are willing to take bold positions,” Labriola said.

Looking to be the heir apparent to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is not running for re-election, several Democrats are raising money for presumptive bids for the state’s top office. They include state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, former Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris and former prosecutor Chris Mattei.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and state Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr. haven’t shut the door, either.

“Like many Republicans, Mark (Boughton) is doubling down on a trickle-down economic theory that’s never worked,” said Drew, head of the state’s Democratic mayors group. “If you ended the state income tax, particularly for the wealthiest people among us, then state deficits will explode even further and it will lead to the dissolution of many public services, including safety and education. It will hurt the economy in the long run.”

Lembo, the chief fiscal guardian of the state, declined to comment through a spokeswoman.

Should Boughton go from exploratory phase to a full-fledged candidate, he said, he will unveil a framework for eliminating the income tax and recalibrating state government.

“If you exist and live in the current status quo, you’re going to look at it and go, ‘where are we going to find $9 billion?’ ” Boughton said. “That’s part of the problem. The vision of the candidates in the field right now can’t see past the huge looming deficits to say, ‘Hey, wait here’s an opportunity.’ ”

But Boughton’s skeptics say that until the mayor fleshes out his proposal, it’s a leap of faith.

“Unless he’s got some other plan to magically raise money or eliminate the vast majority of the state spending, I don’t see how it could be viable,” said David Cadden, a professor emeritus in the School of Business at Quinnipiac University in Hamden. “It would put (the state) in bankruptcy.”

nvigdor@hearstmediact.com; 203-625-4436; http://twitter.com/gettinviggy

 

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