Election 2018: Kraut mounts aggressive campaign to unseat Steinberg in the 136th
WESTPORT — Last year, Greg Kraut ran for the Representative Town Meeting for the first time and earned more votes than any other RTM candidate from his district in Greens Farms. Now Kraut, who moved to Westport from Scarsdale, N.Y., in 2016, is setting his sights even higher: representative for the 136th General Assembly.
Kraut, 42, changed his voter registration from unaffiliated to Republican in April in order to earn the Republican nomination, but vows he will bring a nonpartisan outlook to Hartford armed with his self-produced state economic recovery plan.
Included in Kraut’s 21-point plan is a proposal to sell state-owned properties and rent them back as the tenant, a strategy known as sale-leasebacks that Kraut says can generate $1 billion in new revenue. Creative policies can help fix the state’s revenue gap without the need to increase taxes, said Kraut, who answered questions for his plans in office should he be elected.
What are your top three legislative priorities?
1. Improve our transportation infrastructure. I am a commuter, and I have seen our commute getting longer every year. Transportation has been ignored for far too long here in Connecticut, which remains a roadblock to economic recovery. We need to prioritize capital projects that have the greatest likelihood of producing economic growth.
2. We need to prepare our residents for jobs for the future and keep our students. We have chronically underfunded public education and we need to rapidly commit to establishing science, technology, engineering, and math destinations. The state is one of two states where jobs placed in STEM fields have declined. Connecticut’s workforce is further shrinking as the population ages and outmigration rises. Student loan forgiveness is a must and we can tie it to residency to positively affect GDP and further entice millennials.
3. We need to lower taxes. We must exempt social security and pension benefits from state tax. Gift and estate taxes puts the state at a substantial competitive disadvantage in return for small dollars raised and should be repealed. These taxes and our high cost of living are key factors for seniors migrating and businesses leaving. In 2011 and 2015, the income tax rate increased, and by 2016 several high-profile corporations such as General Electric and Aetna announced decisions to move they’re headquarters out of the state.
What experiences qualify you to represent the 136th Assembly District?
Now more than ever, we need financial and business expertise in Hartford. I’ve spent 20 years in real estate management and helped advise major corporations on where to relocate. I have launched three successful companies, helped create hundreds of jobs, and developed and implemented complex financial plans. Further, my experiences as a Metro-North commuter, a father of two young sons and a member of Westport’s Representative Town Meeting have taught me that to protect Westport’s future, we must change the way that Hartford is managed.
I will lead without a partisan agenda. My work with individuals on both sides of the aisle has generated results. I’ve been active in gun control, women’s health issues and the environment, and I’m also a proponent of fiscal responsibility.
What is the biggest challenge facing the state and how do you plan to help fix it?
We need to immediately focus on paying down state debts and unfunded pension liabilities. Our unfunded pension liabilities cannibalize the state budget and cause state employees to fear for their futures. I have proposed a three-year economic recovery plan. One specific idea is to monetize state-owned commercial properties. Selling government-owned commercial office space and leasing back what is needed is a time-tested way to raise revenue and has been employed by the federal government and many states for decades. Under current financial conditions, it makes more sense than raising money by more borrowing or raising taxes.
Does Westport have a good relationship with the state government in Hartford? If no, what steps, if any, should be taken to improve town-state ties?
It is increasingly becoming a one-way street as we are seeing less and less, and at the same time we are saddled with more and more unfunded mandates and higher taxes. We watch as the state bonds $155 million for a new train line from Hartford to Springfield — funding that would have covered necessary repairs and upgrades to the Metro-North New Haven line and helped to improve commute times in Fairfield County. Westport is in desperate need for better representation at the state level.
What political issue are you most passionate about?
Aside from restoring our economy, I am passionate about social issues. Schools are the backbone of a town, and directly impact property values and migration to or from the area. We need to restore state funding so that our schools continue to thrive and so that our youth get the education that we have come to expect in Westport. I also want to make sure that we have sensible gun reform measures in place to protect our families and us. Finally, I believe strongly in a woman’s right to choose and want to make sure these rights are protected going forward.
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