Sounding more like he was still on the campaign trail, Gov.-elect Dan Malloy told the House Democratic caucus Monday that as governor he wants to have a partnership and open dialogue with lawmakers.
The message was similar to the one he delivered last month to the Republican caucus, except Monday’s message to the most liberal of the four caucuses came with bursts of applause and a standing ovation.
However, the honeymoon Malloy is currently having with the House Democratic caucus may not last long with a $3.5 billion budget deficit on the horizon. It’s a premise Malloy, the first Democratic governor in 20 years, doesn’t believe.
“You haven’t had a governor as progressive as I am, nor have you had a governor who is as fiscally conservative as I am in a long period of time and those two things are not mutually exclusive,” Malloy said.
The comment isn’t that different from the message he delivered minutes earlier to the caucus.
“Let us not turn our backs on our progressive nature,“ Malloy said. “After all we’re Democrats, we do measure ourselves by the success of our fellow man and woman. We do believe a rising tide should raise all boats. And the tide may not rise this year, and it may not rise next year, but it will rise again and at that time Connecticut will be prepared to share its bounty with all of our citizens.”
House Speaker Chris Donovan said over the past three years the caucus felt it didn’t have a partner in the budget process, even though it was able to find compromise with Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell often leaving out the two Republican caucuses.
“We’re looking forward to working with the governor, facing the deficit squarely and saying, ‘What do we have to do‘?,” Donovan said. “There’s a lot of issues we have agreement on, but there’s going to be disagreements.”
He said none of the 100 lawmakers in the House Democratic caucus agree on all of the issues all of the time and the same will be true of the governor.
Tackling the Deficit
“Despite our fondest wishes the economy is not going to turn around,” Malloy said. “We can’t raise taxes by $3.5 billion, nor can we cut the budget by $3.5 billion. Let’s be honest.”
“So this is a time when people have to be on notice that they’ll be requested to participate in shared sacrifice,” Malloy said in a brief press conference outside the ballroom where House Democrats were meeting to discuss the upcoming session.
He said the members of the Democratic caucus appreciate the gravity of the budget situation too.
“My message was we may not be able to do the things people would like to do in the near term and people will be asked to share the sacrifice if necessary, but I look forward to a day that the economy, in a more robust way, begins to grow itself out of this problem,” Malloy said.
In his recent trips to Washington D.C. he said it struck him that Connecticut is looking a the biggest per capita deficit in the entire United States. “That’s the nature of the Connecticut problem right now and we’re going to have to deal with it,” Malloy said.
Asked if this means tax increases are on the horizon, Malloy said, “Look I think I’ve gone just about as far as I’m going to go today.”
Malloy doesn’t have to present his first budget until the first week in February.
“Suffice it to say, we can’t cut our way out of it, nor can we raise the money out of it. It’s going to require a shared sacrifice and that’s what people need to understand,” Malloy said.
After several trips to Washington D.C. Malloy told the House Democratic caucus that “It is unlikely that answers to our problems will be coming from Washington.”
“Rather they will have to be homegrown and we’ll have to begin the process of digging ourselves out of this terrible, difficult financial situation we find ourselves in.”
But it won’t be easy.
“We’re out of the easy ways around it and our economy has not caught up with the steps we’ve taken thus far,” Malloy said.