Malloy’s term in office has been impressive (and unheralded)

Greenwich-Voices-GoldrickSince there’s precious little press coverage of state government, here’s news about what Gov. Dannel Malloy’s been doing the past four years that you probably missed.

When Malloy took office in January 2011, former Gov. M. Jodi Rell had emptied the Connecticut’s $1.4-billion rainy day fund and made use of more than $2 billion of federal stimulus funds to balance the state’s budget. Malloy was faced with a gaping $3.67-billion deficit and a projected $3 billion one the following year with no cash reserves and no more stimulus dollars.

So he got to work, producing four straight balanced budgets, including a $50-million surplus this year, without resorting to new borrowing, canceling Rell’s plan to issue $646 million in new debt to be paid for with a surcharge on consumers’ electric bills. Malloy streamlined government, reducing the number of state agencies from 81 to 59 and trimming 2,500 jobs from the state payroll.

OPM estimates those reforms created annual savings of over $200 million. In total, Malloy created more than $1.6 billion in savings and negotiated reforms in the state’s retiree health plans (OPEB) that reduced liabilities by $15 billion. He negotiated new savings with state unions that included new wage tiers, lower minimum COLAs and a two-year wage freeze, all of which will save Connecticut billions in future pension liabilities.

He eliminated John Rowland’s irresponsible labor agreements that postponed payment of much of the state’s pension debt until the late 2020’s and contributed to a major increase in long-term liabilities. He fully funded the state’s contributions to the teacher pension fund in all four of his budgets, something Rowland failed to do for years. And Malloy did not resort to borrowing to close the pension gap, as Rell did in 2008 when she borrowed $2.3 billion in pension obligation bonds. Through more competitive pricing of the prescription drug plan for retired teachers implemented this year, Malloy reduced costs to retired teachers and the state by 17%.

Malloy balanced the budget without gutting aid to municipalities or schools. In fact, he increased educational cost-sharing each year and more than 10% over four years, while putting Connecticut on the path to universal pre-K. He provided funding this year for over a thousand children to attend pre-K, with plans to increase the number to more than 4,000 by 2017.

He helped hard-pressed families by instituting Connecticut’s first earned income tax credit (EITC) and by raising the minimum wage. The EITC now assists 180,000 low-income working households, including 1,200 here in Greenwich. The expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act has led to a major expansion in access to health care for working families. Today nearly one in five Connecticut residents has health insurance through Medicaid.

After Newtown, Malloy led the fight to make Connecticut’s gun laws the toughest in the nation. In the year since the law took effect, more than 1,700 pistol permits have been revoked from people with restraining orders against them for domestic violence, for mental health and other reasons.

Universal background checks prevented 210 felons from purchasing guns, including some convicted of domestic violence. Unique in the country, Connecticut’s gun law permits state police to confiscate guns from someone threatening violence, such as the mass murderer in Santa Barbara, saving untold lives.

Malloy oversaw the nation’s most successful rollout of a state health care exchange. Access Health CT serves as the model for the nation, and is being adopted by other states. Nearly 150,000 people have now signed up for Medicaid through the exchange and more than 80,000 have signed up for private insurance plans.

Without much notice from the press, Dannel Malloy has reformed government, balanced the budget, reduced liabilities, helped working families, expanded access to health care and made us safer through tougher gun laws. That’s a record of achievement.

 

Sean Goldrick is a Democratic member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, though the opinions expressed in this column are his own. He may be reached at [email protected]

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