Boucher explores a run for governor: Denounces passage of state labor package

State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) confirmed on July 28 she is exploring a run for governor. She has filed paperwork for an exploratory committee, she said, adding many people have encouraged her to run.

“I think there is so much at stake,” she said of the state’s financial challenges. She believes she has the experience to lead the state at this time.

“I have been working in business and finance and investments,” she said, pointing out she is not a career politician. “Here in Connecticut we have a part-time citizen legislature, and over many years I have filled dual roles.”

From her early experience on the Wilton Board of Education and Board of Selectmen to the state Board of Education, then to the State House and now the State Senate, she has seen how government works on all levels.

“We don’t send people to the front lines of a battle when they are a new recruit,” she said. “Right now we are in a battle for the economic survival of Connecticut. You don’t send a raw recruit to battle, you send them to boot camp, and I have had boot camp, leadership progression, and oversight on the legislative side. It prepares one well for what we’re facing and what we’re facing is daunting.”

“Expert people from the business world will step into a role so new to them, they make mistakes,” she said. “This is something unique I can bring to the table — having been from minimum-wage, blue-collar Connecticut to representing the affluent side that brings in a majority of the taxes.

Boucher said she has a plan on how to fix the state’s financial situation and she will have to convince the Republicans who will go to the convention next year that she is the most winnable and competent candidate.

“A résumé doesn’t win an election and a poor one doesn’t help you do the job,” she said.

She said Friday she has been told by many Democrats they would like to see a Republican they could vote for. “Things are different here than in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “Everyone is recognizing they may need a very big change.

“On the Democratic side, people say I remind them of Ella Grasso, a beloved Democratic governor,” and on the Republican side they say she reminds them of Jodi Rell. “Maybe it’s time for something different.”

Boucher said she filed the paperwork for her exploratory committee a few weeks ago and has begun fund-raising, but has not made a splashy announcement since she is focusing on the state budget.

Budget concerns

On Friday, prior to the State Senate’s passage on Monday of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) package, Boucher warned this would be a foolhardy measure.

Noting that the House had passed it before the Office of Fiscal Analysis had made its report, she said, “You don’t rush through a proposal without analyzing what you are signing up for.” The plan includes a 10-year contract for wages and benefits and promises no layoffs for four years.

In a press release she acknowledged the package, negotiated by Gov. Dannel Malloy and his staff, includes a two-year wage freeze, but it does not “get close to the numbers needed to put Connecticut on the path to financial stability. Connecticut is facing a $5.1-billion budget deficit while this union package seeks to save $1.5 billion.” The governor’s office said the plan will save $24 billion over the long term.

“Any concessions made during the first two years of this contract are erased in the following eight years of an unheard of 10-year pension protection program,” she said. “This contract includes a four-year, no-layoff provision and language that does not allow for the consolidation of state departments or services, or take advantage of farming services out to the private sector and nonprofits as a way to save money. This will tie the hands of the state of Connecticut and make it near impossible to address the future recessions that always occur about every 10 years, unless we approve more tax increases and reductions in services to those that most need it in our state.”

A Wilton resident, Boucher formed an exploratory committee in 2013 to run for governor in 2014, but she withdrew. She has represented the 26th district since 2008. She is vice chair of the legislature’s Finance, Revenue, & Bonding Committee, and co-chair of the Education and Transportation committees. Prior to the state senate she was a state representative for 12 years and served on the Appropriations Committee. She was founder and former owner of a small business and held corporate management posts for two Fortune 50 firms.