The game of political musical chairs continued this week when state Comptroller Nancy Wyman announced she was joining Dannel Malloy’s gubernatorial campaign and leaving an office she has held for 16 years. So far two men have stepped forward and at least two more have been mentioned as possible candidates for state Comptroller.
Rep. Tom Reynolds of Ledyard re-launched his campaign for comptroller Thursday evening after stepping aside in January when Wyman announced her reelection bid.
Click here to watch the video of the announcement.
Reynolds, who had been running for the position since April 2009, said there will be “no office hopping” for him. The remark is a jab at his only other opponent in the race for the Democratic nomination.
State Healthcare Advocate Kevin Lembo announced earlier this week that he would be switching his campaign for lieutenant governor to the comptroller’s race. Asked if he is concerned about the perception that he is campaign hopping, Lembo answered in the negative: “While I’m changing races today, it’s a logical leap.”
Lembo worked as an assistant state comptroller for six years before he was appointed state Healthcare Advocate.
In a phone conversation Thursday, Reynolds didn’t say anything disparaging about Lembo, but he emphasized the fact that he’s been running for state comptroller for the past 13 months.
When he made the decision to run in April 2009 Reynolds also released a 22-page paper outlining the state’s fiscal condition and his recommendations for significant and long-term budget, tax and government reform.
Reynolds realized that changing the state’s budget policies as one of 187 lawmakers is near impossible, but if he was elected the state’s chief fiscal officer he may have a shot of changing the state’s budget policies.
He said the legislature has been complicit in the creation of the budget crisis, which has the state looking at $3.3 billion and $3.7 billion deficits in fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Reynolds was one of the few Democratic lawmakers to vote against this year’s $19 billion budget.
“There’s a total lack of long-term strategic planning initiatives,” Reynolds said. “Secondly, there’s the absence of data drive decision making.”
He said spending cuts today get made across the board, which means good programs get cut and bad programs are spared.
Also the constitutional spending cap implemented after the income tax is a farce, Reynolds said. It leads the public to believe the state is in control of its spending habits.
“Honor it, amend it, or end it,” Reynolds said of the cap.
And if you think the state has trouble keeping track of its spending, Reynolds said it’s tax system is even more of a mess.
Every year the state gives out $5 billion in tax exemptions, deductions, and credits. Reynolds said there are tax expenditures currently on the books which no longer have valid public policy implications.
According to Reynolds, the future budget deficits in 2012 and 2013 have less to do with revenue and more to do with the deficits created by the use of one-time revenue and surpluses.
“We all saw the trends coming, but we were in denial,“ Reynolds said.
By the time the recession hit, the state had expended about half of its $4 billion rainy day fund, Reynolds said.
Between FY 2004 and FY 2008 the state enjoyed cumulative surpluses of $3.7 billion. However, only one-third of it was deposited into the Rainy Day Fund and only 8 percent to reduce debt, Reynolds wrote in his paper. “We must mandate by law that all surplus funds be used to build the Rainy Day Fund and, when the statutory threshold is reached, all remaining surplus be used to reduce unfunded liabilities or debt.”
Rep. Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, said a lot of people say they haven’t read his paper, but “I think a lot of us did.”
“I definitely think he’s garnered a lot of respect for this document,” Rojas said.
“Nobody could do it better than Tom,” Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, said on the steps of Norwich City Hall Thursday. “I’ve gotten to know Tom, I respect him. He is just the perfect candidate for comptroller.”
Aside from Reynolds and Lembo, Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura confirmed Friday afternoon that he was in the race for comptroller. In a release he touted his ability to bring Waterbury from “ its lowest point in 2002” when it had a “junk” bond rating and faced a $1 billion in unfunded liabilities to an A-rating from credit rating agencies. There have also been rumblings that former Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan of West Hartford was interested in the office.