(Updated) Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele took a shot at state government’s record on information technology Thursday during a forum at the Connecticut Convention Center, and then found himself asked to explain why he hasn’t done something about it.
After Fedele was done explaining how backward the state was in its efforts to implement information technology at a gubernatorial forum, Ned Lamont, a Democrat from Greenwich, asked: “Why haven’t we done it Mike? You come out of IT … Why haven’t you implemented some of those IT innovations?”
Lamont quickly apologized to moderator Ron Insana of CNBC for deviating from the rules of the forum, and Fedele just as quickly offered to answer Lamont’s question “off-line.” Insana then mentioned he had a radio show with some vacancies if the two wished to discuss the matter further. At that point Lamont’s Democratic opponent, former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, raised his hand and also offered to go on the show.
Then Chester First Selectman Tom Marsh, who is running as an independent, volunteered to go on Insana‘s radio show as well.
Malloy turned to Marsh and told him his time will come after the primary.
The gubernatorial forum was sponsored by a business organization called “Jobs for Connecticut Now.” The event featured few fireworks, but it included a lot of consensus on how to improve Connecticut’s economy and business climate.
The six candidates, including Tom Foley who left early, and R. Nelson “Oz” Griebel, fought to keep the group’s attention during the hour-long afternoon forum.
All six candidates promised to be attentive to the business community if elected.
Fedele promised to evaluate the impact on business of any piece of legislation and even pulled out a red veto pen and said he would make sure to veto any legislation that adversely impacts the business community.
Foley criticized Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell for not doing more to get businesses to relocate to the state. He said he recently spoke with a Connecticut executive who received a call from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who invited the executive to sit with him in a box seat at the Indianapolis 500.
“There was no specific reason for the trip. He just said I want you to come to Indiana to see what we have to offer,” Foley said. “We need to do more of that. If I‘m the next governor of Connecticut I certainly will be doing that.“
Griebel talked about keeping the businesses that already are here, and working to get transatlantic flights back to Bradley International Airport.
“We have to go out and tell the rest of the world Connecticut is open for business,” Griebel said. “If the governor of the state doesn’t do it, no one is going to sell the state of Connecticut.”
Marsh, who also owns a small business, said he lives with the dysfunction his fellow candidates are talking about every day.
“I’m not saying run government like a business, but you need to have a focus,” Marsh said, adding that he is more than half way to collecting the 7,500 signatures he needs to get on the ballot in November.
Malloy talked about the need to drive energy costs down and to continue investing in education. He also said he would combine about a third of the state agencies.
“In a country of 49 other states, Connecticut continues to operate in a vacuum,” Malloy said. “No one measures anything…We don’t have results-based accounting.” If the state had applied general accounting standards, Malloy said it would have known about the structural budget deficit years ago.
“We have a revenue problem,” Lamont said trying to get the attention of the audience toward the end of the forum. He said if he could give the hundreds of thousands small businesses in the state the confidence to hire just one or two more employees, it would bring down the unemployment rate and would create a half billion to a billion dollars in new tax revenue for the state without increasing taxes.
“We don’t need more taxes. We do need more taxpayers,” Lamont said.
John R. Emra, regional vice president of external and legislative affairs for AT&T, said he was pleased with what he heard from all of the candidates.
“All six candidates are talking about the need to get the economy going again,” said Emra, who counts himself among the few Generation Xers born in Connecticut to have remained here. Most of his friends in his age group, he said, are living and working in other states.
“It’s as if Connecticut lost a generation,” Erma said.
Job growth in the state has been stagnant since 1989. One of the favorite sayings of many of the candidates is that “Connecticut is dead last in job growth when compared to the other 50 states, including Michigan.”
He said all six gubernatorial candidates seem to be saying the same thing and looking to change how Connecticut does business.