For more than a year, state Republicans and Democrats have been clashing sharply over Gov. Dannel Malloy\’s enactment of the largest tax increase in state history.
Malloy went back to that subject Wednesday in his State of the State Address when talking about the fiscal issues facing the state.
\”Anyone who tells you that the budget we passed two years ago didn\’t do its job, that it didn\’t make real change in how we approach our finances, is simply not telling the truth,\’\’ Malloy said to state legislators and a live television audience across the state.
But Republicans said that synopsis is wrong, and the governor made misleading statements about the budget during one of the most high-profile speeches of the year. They said the statements were wrong.
\”In every speech, I think the governor probably has a line that he wishes he could take back,\’\’ said Senate GOP leader John McKinney of Fairifield. \”Last year, it was bashing our teachers. This year, it\’s calling us liars. It\’s hyperbole. It\’s not true, and I think he knows it\’s not true.\’\’
McKinney added, \”There are still some facts that he can\’t ignore. Our unemployment rate continues to go up. It\’s too high right now. That\’s a direct result of an economy in Connecticut where taxes are too high, businesses are overregulated, and people don\’t want to live here and work here as much as they should. … I would find it difficult to characterize a budget, which results in a $2-plus-billion-dollar deficit [in the coming two fiscal years], as something that worked.\’\’
Sen. Rob Kane, the ranking Senate Republican member of the budget-writing appropriations committee, said the continuing deficits show that the tax increases did not solve all of the state\’s fiscal problems.
\”It didn\’t work,\’\’ Kane said of Malloy\’s tax plan. \”I think he\’s incorrect. The budget didn\’t do its job. I sure hope the rhetoric ends and we all work together. … It\’s obvious it didn\’t work.\’\’
In another statement during his 26-minute speech Wednesday, Malloy said, \”We cut more than we added in revenues.\’\’
\”That\’s not true,\’\’ Kane said in response. \”It\’s not true – nor did they reduce salaries\’\’ of state employees.
Republicans have repeatedly noted that spending increased – not decreased - under Malloy\’s budget, and the overall size of the state budget went up, not down.
But Mark Ojakian, Malloy\’s chief of staff, responded, \”Senators McKinney and Kane are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. The fact is we closed the largest per capita deficit in the nation, and we did it with more reductions in spending than we did with new revenue. We have more work to do, but Connecticut – under the Governor’s leadership – is making the tough choices necessary to keep our budget balanced.”
The latest deficit projection for the current fiscal year is about $40 million, while the projected deficit for the next fiscal year that starts in July is about $1 billion.
McKinney said, \”We cannot sustain the spending trajectory and the tax trajectory that we\’re on. That means we have to do things very differently than we\’re used to doing them – and that\’s going to require bold leadership.\’\’
Besides the budget, one of the biggest issues Wednesday was gun control in a post-Newtown world.
Senate Majority Leader Marty Looney of New Haven said he agreed with Malloy\’s statement during the State of the State Address that \”more guns are not the answer.\’\’ Malloy added, \”Freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher, and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom. That is not who we are in Connecticut, and it is not who we will allow ourselves to become.\’\’
Looney responded, \”I think the NRA\’s response was entirely inadequate. Basically, they were saying that the answer to gun violence is more guns. That is not the solution. So I certainly agree with the governor in that regard.\’\’