Assets and Income Taxes, Back to the Future

A generation ago in Connecticut the Republican gubernatorial candidate, a resident of Fairfield County, was criticized by her Democratic incumbent opponent for the disparity between family assets and income taxes paid.  To observers of this year’s Connecticut campaign for Governor, the exchange may have a familiar ring. As reported by The New York Times after the first gubernatorial debate of the 1986 campaign between Gov. William O'Neill and Republican challenger Julie Belaga, a veteran legislator from Westport:

1000px-seal_of_the_governor_of_connecticut.svg“There was another exchange about the recent release of Mrs. Belaga's joint tax return, which showed that she and her husband, Myron, paid $110 in Federal income taxes last year because of losses incurred by an investment business being started by her husband. The couple reported total assets of $1.4 million.

Mrs. Belaga said she and her husband, a retired oil company executive, paid more than $500,000 in Federal income taxes in 1982 and that Mr. O'Neill seemed to be confusing the couple's assets with their income…  Mr. O'Neill said, ''When you have $1.4 million in assets and pay $110, and $257 the previous year, something tells me you're not quite the average taxpayer.'''

Belaga, the Deputy House Majority Leader, had won a three-way Republican primary to gain the Republican nomination to challenge O’Neill, then running for his second full term.  One of the two unsuccessful candidates in that Republican primary 28 years ago was former state Sen. Gerald Labriola, whose son is the current chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party.

O’Neill was re-elected and ultimately served as Governor for a decade; Belega subsequently served as New England Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a member of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.   (WFSB archive photos)