Former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker couldn’t do it, former Gov. John G. Rowland couldn’t do it and Gov. M. Jodi Rell couldn’t do it, so what makes Republican Tom Foley think he can solve a budget deficit by taking any and all tax increases off the table?

That was one of the questions asked during the last televised debate at NBC’s studios in West Hartford.

Foley said he will reduce government spending by $2 billion and will get $500 million more from the federal government. Foley argued more money will come into the state if he‘s elected because economic activity will increase and reduce the deficit.

“I can do a better job,” Foley said. “If I’m governor the budget deficit actually won’t be $3.5 billion because more revenues will come in from the additional economic activity.“

“I will veto any proposal to increase taxes,“ Foley said.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy, who has maintained that everything is on the table, said for the first time Tuesday: “I want to be very clear: we’re not raising taxes. That’s the last thing we will do—if we have to, and only to protect the safety net.”

Malloy argued he’s trying to be “intellectually honest,” unlike the last three governors who were unable to keep their promise of not increasing or in the case of Rowland, repealing the income tax.

Foley countered that if Malloy can’t reduce spending then he’s just going to have to increase taxes by $3.5 billion. The deficit projections have been lowered to about $3.3 billion.

Malloy said he would reduce spending, but wouldn’t give a specific amount of money. He did say he would consolidate commissions and state agencies by a third and reduce the executive branch workforce of 600 non-union employees by 15 percent.

Foley said his business background will help him achieve the savings he’s promised on the campaign trail even though he admitted after the debate that getting some of the Medicaid savings by switching people from nursing homes to community-based settings would take longer than one budget cycle.

“What worries me about your plan Tom is you probably can’t do what you’re saying,” Malloy said.

He said that means that the spending reductions will likely be passed along to cities and towns, which will end up having to increase people’s property taxes.

Foley reiterated previous statements about Malloy’s commitment to the labor unions and statements he’s made about not wanting to lay off the state workforce, which is protected under an agreement inked by Rell until at least July 1, 2011. Only two Correction Officer unions aren’t protected by that agreement, which could be tested again by a Supreme Court decision that has yet to be handed down.

“I want to be very clear on this. I’ve made no deals, no side deals, no commitments, other than to treat people with respect,” Malloy said.

“The unions that represent state workers are very powerful in Hartford,” Foley said. “They have tilted the playing field and it simply isn’t fair to ask Connecticut families that are in the private sector who have lost jobs, whose incomes have declined, whose benefits in many cases have been reduced to not have the state workers be paying their fair share of the sacrifice we need to have in order to get us through these problems.”

Malloy said he wanted to remind the viewing audience that for the past two decades Republican governor’s have led the state and one of those governor’s inked a 20-year deal with the state employees regarding their health and pension benefits. Malloy said he wouldn’t have done that.

“We’re not going to have those kinds of agreements,” Malloy said. “We’re going to bargain hard.”

“We need to cut, cut, cut,” Malloy said. “That’s why I’ve proposed reducing the workforce that I get to appoint along with my commissioners of 600 people by a minimum of 15 percent.”

He said he would also keep in place the current hiring freeze.

“Dan you just told us that you’re not going to reduce spending and now you just said you’re not going to increase taxes,” Foley said. “It’s simply not credible.”