Malloy trumpets record at Greenwich talk

p1-Malloy-10-10A confident Gov. Dannel Malloy said his administration has taken the necessary steps to turning the state’s economy and finances around during a question-and-answer session Monday evening sponsored by the Greenwich League of Women Voters.

In a non-confrontational setting where he had to answer only written questions, Mr. Malloy said at the approximately hourlong Town Hall event that his administration has made the tough decisions to rein in spending, which, he added, the two previous Republican governors’ administrations of M. Jodi Rell and John Rowland failed to do.

“Let’s drill down for a second. Let’s understand the difference between myself and other administrations. Let’s make sure everybody understands, including the person who wrote that novel,” he said in response to a lengthy question that claimed he raised taxes at a historic level.

Mr. Malloy said he inherited a $3.6-billion deficit, with a depleted $1.5-billion rainy day fund and the state borrowing an additional $1 billion to cover operating expenses when he assumed office following his 2010 election win.

“The average increase in spending in the two prior administrations was 7.7% per year,” Mr. Malloy told his audience. “Do you want to know what it was last year? 1.3%.”

Mr. Malloy said part of the strategy was to work with state employees to limit costs.

However, even in the restrained League of Women Voters format, Mr. Malloy’s combative nature wasn’t far from the surface as he strongly disagreed with a few questions. One of those questions maintained that 21,000 jobs in the state have disappeared since he was elected in 2010 and state spending has gone up by 89%.

“Why does somebody repeat things that aren’t true so consistently,” he retorted. “The person who runs around saying what he is saying is the truth really cannot substantiate it.”

He said 41,000 private sector jobs have been created since he was elected while at the same time his administration shrank the state government’s workforce.

That question was one of 16 that Mr. Malloy fielded before an audience of close to 90 people. He also spoke about the state’s preparedness in dealing with Superstorm Sandy and said the state built on lessons learned from earlier storms.

He said five of the 14 natural disaster declarations in the state’s history have occurred since he was elected in 2010. Those disasters helped the state to prepare for Superstorm Sandy, and Mr. Malloy said the state suffered fewer deaths and less property damage compared to other states from that massive storm because of the lessons learned and extensive training.

“Because of our preparations, because of our drilling, because of our work with our utility, we suffered far fewer loss of life and other damages and we recovered more rapidly,” he said.

Malloy said education reform is vital, especially in ensuring as many students stay in school to graduate.

“Connecticut cannot compete with 49 other states and the rest of the world if we fail to graduate 40% to 45% of the kids in Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, New Britain, and New London,” he said. “We won’t have the resources, the human capital to compete, if we continue to have results like that.”

Mr. Malloy warned Connecticut may be hit hard if the partial federal government shutdown continues.

“There are a lot of civilians in the defense industry and as well on our base in Groton who are furloughed, and every time someone’s not pulling in a paycheck, a couple of things happen,” he said. “No. 1, they have less money to spend. No. 2, they file for unemployment.”

He said the state is responsible for civilian nonfederal employees’ unemployment benefits if they continue to be furloughed.

In an issue that is of great concern to Greenwich residents, Mr. Malloy offered a simple response to a question about whether he favors a statewide property tax.

“No,” he said to some applause from the crowd. “I think we are more dependent on property taxes than we should be and I have no desire to have a statewide property tax.”

While he said he wasn’t in favor of a county form of government, he said there are too many regional planning districts in what he said is one of the smallest states geographically in the union.

“The cost of maintaining that system is eating up precious dollars,” Mr. Malloy said, “I would argue in some cases wasting those precious dollars. Because maintaining that separate infrastructure for that many districts in the state of Connecticut … every one of them has a director, every one of them has an assistant director, every one of them has, you know, X, Y, or Z folks, and yet we are this very small place.”

In response to a question that he was more focused on attracting large hedge fund businesses to the state and not on small businesses, he said that wasn’t the case.

“As I stand before you, of the 941 firms that we have interacted with since I became governor, as opposed to 119 in the eight years prior to my becoming governor, 860 of those are small businesses,” Mr. Malloy said.

Mr. Malloy also touched on non-economic issues, such as bullying, an issue that has hit home to Greenwich residents after the Aug. 27 suicide of Greenwich High School sophomore Bart Palosz, who was a victim of bullying.

“We are now requiring additional training for not just mental health personnel but teachers and principals and education folks to identify bullying behavior,” Mr. Malloy said.

Mr. Malloy praised the league’s commitment to educating residents about voting and public issues, and read an official proclamation honoring the Greenwich League of Women Voters.

“What is it? It is participation. That’s all it is,” Mr. Malloy said. “The idea that people should have the right to vote, should be encouraged to vote and should be registered to vote and also should be cognizant of the issues. They have done a great job in both of those  things.”

Mr. Malloy said the state is also working to ensure that as many people as possible can vote, and took a swipe at other states he said are trying to make it more difficult for people to vote.

“Let me just say this about Connecticut,” Mr. Malloy said. “We should be proud that Connecticut is doing everything it can to fly in the opposite direction of many other states. Many other states are trying to make it more difficult for people to vote in America. We are doing just the opposite, and we are trying to make it easier to register and trying to make it easier to vote. We need to make some additional changes, but I am very proud of what we have done.”

In attendance were three of the four members of Greenwich’s state delegation, state Sen. L. Scott Frantz (R-36th District) and state Reps. Livvy Floren (R-149th District) and Stephen Walko (R-150th District).

Although a member of the opposite party with an election looming in a year, Ms. Floren praised Mr. Malloy for his work ethic and some of his policies, although she noted not everyone may agree with his interpretation of the financial numbers.

“You can look at numbers in many, many different ways. There are always going to be two sides,” she said.

She said she strongly supports the UConn Next Generation effort, and the governor’s job creation efforts.

Also in attendance were First Selectman Peter Tesei and Selectman Drew Marzullo.

Mr. Tesei, a Republican, was cautious about regionalization and what recommendations may come out of the MORE Commission.

“I think that issue is couched in efficiency, but really what it comes down to in the future is a redistribution of resources,” he said.

Mr. Marzullo, a Democrat, praised Mr. Malloy’s performance.

“I thought tonight he commanded the audience and answered very upfront and honest. I thought he did very well tonight,” he said.

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