Dearth of progress under Malloy? Hardly. It’s a record of achievement.

Bill-Gaston-Greenwich-VoicesAlready facing a tough re-election fight this fall, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy may have an even tougher challenge on his hands — overcoming the torrent of hysterics  from local Republicans on taxes and the state of the economy.

In her recent Greenwich Time column “Democrats are pushing us out of state,” ex-state Rep. Dolly Powers lamented the departure from Greenwich of former First Selectman Tom Ragland. The culprit in her eyes? Malloy’s “record” tax increases, “economic stagnation,” budget deficits “in the multimillions,” and what she obliquely calls a “dearth of progress.”

Back in early 2011, I attended one of Malloy’s first town hall meetings at Eastern Middle School where he defended his plan to eliminate the gaping budget deficit left behind by Republican Gov. Jodi Rell. In introducing the newly elected governor, First Selectman Peter Tesei warned Malloy he was “going into the mouth of the lion.”

One Cos Cob Republican, quaking at the prospect of marginally higher taxes, hyperventilated, “What’s my incentive to live here? Why not move to Florida?” Gov. Malloy’s response was priceless. “Because I think Greenwich is a lot nicer than Florida.” Amen.

May I suggest that the Republicans who continue to harp that Gov. Malloy’s policies are pushing Mr. Ragland and his friends and neighbors to flee the state have worked that pedal on their organ quite enough?

The claim that high taxes will cause the wealthy to flee —  state Sen. L. Scott Frantz has made this fact-free claim for years about Connecticut’s estate tax — has been debunked in study after study. Our taxes account for 3.6% of gross state product (GSP), which is the third lowest in the country. Yet despite overwhelming evidence showing, at most, a negligible effect of higher taxes on migration patterns of the wealthy, Republicans continue to peddle this fable.

But what about Powers’ claim of a “dearth of progress” under Malloy? Is she right? The answer is most certainly no.

Malloy inherited from his Republican predecessor the largest per capita deficit in the country, roughly $3.5 billion. Since then, he has created more than 50,000 private sector jobs, wiped out the deficit, chopped long-term debt by more than $11 billion, and yanked the state pension fund into shape for the first time in decades.

If there is long-standing “economic stagnation” in the state, as Ms. Powers charges, well, may I introduce you to John Rowland and Jodi Rell?

Thanks to Gov. Malloy and a Democratic legislature, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to move to a $10.10 per hour minimum wage by 2017, the highest state minimum wage in the country, boosting the purchasing power of thousands of families and individuals throughout the state. Most voters would consider that progress.

When Connecticut made history three years ago as the first state in the country to pass a paid sick leave bill, now widely popular with businesses and employees alike, that was progress. Passing the country’s strictest gun laws in the wake of the Newtown massacre was progress. So was expanding voting rights, passing comprehensive education reform, and, yes, abolishing the death penalty.

Gov. Malloy is to be credited for progress on another front. Nearly 200,000 people — more than twice initial estimates — have signed up for quality, affordable health care through the Access Health CT state exchange, a national leader in implementing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Dan Malloy — the first Democratic governor of the state in 20 years and the first to seek re-election since William O’Neill in 1986 — has demonstrated an enviable record of progress. Far from “pushing” people out of the state, he has improved the lives of millions of Connecticut citizens, notwithstanding the ritual whining from those too busy “shaking Connecticut dust from their feet.”

He richly deserves a second term.

 

Bill Gaston is a member of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee, but the opinions expressed here are his own.

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