Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley told a standing room only crowd at the Connecticut Convention Center that if his Democratic opponent Dannel Malloy is in favor of spending $15 million to promote tourism, then he’s for $15.25 million.

“If Dannel’s for $15 million, then I’m for $15.25 million,” Foley said Wednesday at a forum sponsored by the billion dollar tourism industry.

According to the group sponsoring the forum the tourism industry generates $11.5 billion in tourist spending and $1.15 billion in state and local tax revenue. Not to mention it also employs more than 110,000 residents. 

Foley’s $15.25 million figure piggybacks on the $15 million Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dannel Malloy proposed in his policy paper on the tourism industry.

Malloy equated Foley’s statement to a school kid claiming that the dog ate his homework.

“Tom just ate my idea,” Malloy quipped.

“The idea that we have a state government that’s put exactly $1 into promoting tourism is an embarrassment to me as resident of Connecticut,” Malloy said in his opening remarks before receiving a round of applause. “It’s an attack on you and it is in many ways saying that what you do is not valuable and nothing could be further from the truth. That‘s why months ago I put out a tourism plan.”

Asked if he stole Malloy’s idea after the debate, Foley said “that wouldn’t be a valuable enough idea to claim it as theft.”

“I’ve been talking for a year and a half on the campaign trail about how we spend a lot of money, but we’re not investing,” Foley said. “And marketing expense to promote tourism is an investment. You actually get more revenues back than you spend.”

Asked if he felt Foley stole the idea after the debate, “He took it from very close to his back pocket,” Malloy said. “You be the judge.”

The two major party candidates also tussled on stage over reducing the state workforce and consolidating government.

Foley accused Malloy of wanting to reduce the staff in the governor’s office by 15 percent, which he said sounds good until you figure out it’s only about two or three positions.

Malloy immediately jumped in and defended his position which includes reducing or consolidating about one-third of state agencies and reducing the number of non-classified, political appointees by 15 percent.

“I’ll have a freestanding debate with you any day,” Malloy said. “Let me tell you the people your party appointed to these management positions may want to get their resumes ready.”

Asked if he thought it was possible Malloy was talking about the non-classified employees such as deputy commissioners and other agency positions, Foley said “No in his ad he’s talking about the governor’s staff.”

He said the budget for the governor’s office is only about $3 million. Fifteen percent would only be a couple of people.

“It’s deceptive,” Foley said.

There are about 600 political appointees under the governor’s control. Malloy said he would cut 15 percent of those positions, his campaign confirmed Wednesday.

Chester First Selectman Tom Marsh, the Independent, was also at the forum Wednesday.