Lamont, Griebel agree state must save money on tourism
Hartford — Two candidates for governor, Democrat Ned Lamont and independent Oz Griebel, wednesday spouted support for tourism funding at a forum, each promising to be Connecticut’s biggest cheerleader, if elected.
But these were from  far;eager to invest in a particular funding level.
Lamont, State and griebel Sen. Joe Markley, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, participated in the case, that was organized by the Connecticut Lodging Association and held at the Connecticut Convention Center. A turn was taken by each candidate on stage with moderator Michael Price, chairman of the Connecticut Tourism and Culture Advisory Committee.
Bob Stefanowski, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, was a no-show.
State tourism groups have already been lobbying lawmakers with increasing intensity recently as funding for statewide marketing steadily has dwindled from the $15 million that outgoing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy delivered upon ago taking office eight years. The existing state budget only allocates $4.1 million for the reason.
“You may already know, tourism is underfunded,” Price said. “And it’s tied into funding for arts, culture and historic preservation,” areas that benefited from another $10 million in state funding as recently as 2008.
“Can you invest in those true numbers?” Price asked Griebel, referring to $15 million for tourism and $10 million for the arts.
The independent candidate said he’d, then immediately tempered his response by calling focus on the estimated $4.6 billion deficit that awaits the new governor.
“The initial (two-year) budget should do only a small amount harm as possible … to municipalities,” Griebel said. “We have to have a discussion (about tourism funding).”
He said he’d take a dynamic role such talks, serving as “the principle marketing officer of the constant state.”
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“As governor, I will function as No. 1 champion because of this continuing state,” said Lamont, who vowed to invest at least just as much on tourism promotion as Rhode Island, which outspends Connecticut currently.
“I can’year t promise you a large bump the initial,” he added.
Both Griebel and Lamont said they might support committing a larger share of the revenue generated by the state’s highest-in-the-nation accommodation tax to tourism. Markley, however, called the tax “burdensome” and said the constant state should stop “coupling” a specific tax with a specific purpose.
“I’d note that tax reduced,” Markley said. “We must work out how much we must fund tourism and culture rather than worry where it’s via.”
The forum centered on funding for transportation also, which affects tourism. Both Griebel and Lamont said they favored electronic tolls to create revenue for infrastructure improvements, a strategy Markley opposed.
About two dozen employees of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun traveled to the forum to stress the significance of preserving jobs at the southeastern Connecticut facilities, which are threatened by growing competition. In August in Springfield a fresh casino opened, Mass., and another is scheduled to open near Boston in 2019. Massachusetts officials are thinking about whether to open bidding on a third casino in the southeastern part of hawaii.
In addition, proponents of a Bridgeport casino are anticipated to renew their push once the Connecticut legislature convenes next year.
John Pearson of Niantic, a table-games dealer who’s been at Mohegan Sun for 22 years, said MGM Springfield have not had a noticeable effect on Mohegan Sun’s business. He said it’s understood, however, that the entire selection of Massachusetts casinos is open once, layoffs at Mohegan Sun could possibly be “in the thousands.”