GREENWICH—Former Massachusetts Governor and possible 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley have a lot in common.
Aside from their similar business backgrounds and the fact that they’re Republicans living in Blue states the problems Foley would face as governor are similar to ones Romney has already stared down in Massachusetts.
Romney told a crowd gathered at Redmen’s Hall in Greenwich Thursday that when he first took office back in January 2003 he inherited a $3 billion budget deficit. Connecticut’s next governor will inherit a $3.4 billion budget deficit.
“I know a lot of folks think it’s impossible to close a budget gap that big,” Romney said. “I’d done the same thing Tom has, I’d said that I would balance the budget without raising taxes and without cutting vital services.”
He said when he got into government and got a look at the “waste and inefficiency,” it was “a lot easier than I expected.”
But a previously enacted $1.3 billion capital gains tax increase and $500 million in unanticipated federal grants knocked Romney’s budget deficit to $1.2 billion during his first year in office. And instead of supporting tax increases Romney with the help of a Democrat-controlled legislature raised fees on everything from driver’s licenses to gasoline.
While the debate over tax or fee increases may boil down to semantics, Foley told his supporters again Thursday that he will not raise taxes if elected governor.
“I have a plan for erasing that budget deficit without raising taxes,” Foley said.
Foley’s opponent, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Malloy, said Wednesday that the numbers aren’t adding up. On Wednesday Foley said he would cut the budget by $2 billion, but both Malloy and Foley agree the deficit will be $3.4 billion, so where’s the other $1.4 billion?
Foley said the $1.4 billion will come from an increase in money the state receives from the federal government and an increase in revenues the state will see when the economy recovers. He said he doesn’t think the state has to reduce expenses by the whole $3.4 billion because there are other sources of revenue.
“The forecast that’s in the current budget projection for 2012 I think I can beat by doing more things than Dan Malloy will do to bring back jobs and the economy,” Foley said.
Asked if he thinks it will be as easy as Romney said it would be Foley said “absolutely.”
“I love this race because there is such a difference between me and my opponent Dan Malloy,” Foley said.
Yesterday, Malloy said that if Foley thinks it will be easy to balance the budget then he’s simply not telling the truth.
“These are difficult times, and I’m not willing to make any promises I can’t keep as Governor,“ said Malloy. “What I can promise is an honest discussion of where we stand.“
Foley and Malloy agree that more honesty needs to be brought to the budgeting process. Foley said that he’s all for switching to GAAP accounting to ensure the “game playing that’s been happening with the budget stops.”
Malloy has said the first thing he would do after being sworn into office is mandate all state agencies adopt GAAP accounting so the state has a better idea of its finances.
Romney wasn’t in Greenwich Thursday just for a brief rally at a fraternal organization. He was there to help Foley raise some money for the campaign.
Foley estimated Romney’s visit, which included lunch at the Greenwich Hyatt, will bring in at least $50,000.
Foley said the campaign, which includes his brief race for U.S. Senate, has raised about $2 million. He said they spent about $1 million in the Republican primary and doesn’t plan to be outspent by Malloy in the general election.
Malloy has received $6 million in public funds to challenge Foley under the state’s new public campaign finance system.
Foley who loaned his campaign about $3 million said he will throw more of his own money into the race if it’s necessary.
“Whatever it takes,” Foley said. “We’re not going to be outspent I can tell you that.”
Foley’s fundraising efforts may seem a little sluggish, but he said there aren’t a lot of people paying attention to the race just yet.
“A lot of people aren’t focused on politics in August so we weren’t focusing on fundraising,” Foley said. And in a state election individuals who donated during the primary campaign can’t contribute to the general election until after Aug. 10. At the federal level individuals are allowed to donate to both the primary and general elections before a candidate becomes the party’s nominee.