At a rally to support SustiNet, Connecticut’s best chance at a public health insurance option, Gov.-elect Dan Malloy seemed cautiously optimistic that the program will be adopted and credited his mother, who was a school nurse, for his commitment to universal health care.

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“It was through her eyes and her advocacy that I think much of my commitment to making sure that all of our neighbors have access to quality health care really arouse,” he told the crowd that filled the Emanuel Lutheran Church in Hartford.

The rally Tuesday was a prelude to Wednesday morning’s SustiNet Partnership Board of Directors meeting where it is expected to finalize its recommendations for the program. The recommendations will then be given to the legislature, which is expected to draft and vote on legislation that will likely be passed onto the governor.

As he spoke with an interfaith group of religious leaders standing behind him, Malloy sounded at times like a preacher as he described the progress SustiNet represents for universal health care in the state.

“I’m not sure we’re at the top of the mountain, where we see the promise land but we know the promise land exists or at least a substantial portion of that which is necessary to provide the promise land is just around the corner,” he said.

Malloy also expressed concern that the recently passed federal health care act is under attack, citing a case in Virginia this week when a judge decided the health insurance mandate exceeds Congress’ power to regulate economic activity under the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause.

“Let us hope based on the recent national elections that that victory is not snatched away from us,” he said, adding that the Virginia judge was “well a little more conservative than most of the people sitting in this room.”

Malloy said there was a lot of work that still needed to be done and said he planned to “go after” all the available federal money to support the state’s health care system.

“With any luck with the federal dollars and a turnaround in our economic situation, hopefully not in the too-distant future, we’ll be able to move this ball forward substantially greater than you might otherwise believe we can,” he said. “We’re going to get this job done.”

After his speech, religious leaders presented Malloy with some gifts like a bilingual bible in Spanish and English, and a Jewish and Islamic amulet. Malloy was careful to ask if the gifts were of nominal monetary value.

Speaker of the House Chris Donovan also addressed the crowd and used the opportunity to take a few jabs at outgoing Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell.

“That was quite an impressive sight with, I’ll say, the governor, the lieutenant governor and all the clergy. I remember a couple years ago when the clergy wanted to meet with the governor and the governor then refused,” he said.

Later on he thanked the lawmakers who were present at the rally for overriding Rell’s veto of SustiNet bill in July 2009.

Still later Donovan talked about spending cuts, specifically Rell’s 2009 proposed cuts to Medicaid.

“So what were the things that the governor then proposed to cut? Health care. Health care was number one on the list. Health care for the disadvantaged, health care for the vulnerable, health care for seniors was number one on that list,” he said.

Donovan also brought up proposed cuts to dental care, saying that Rell and others called dental care a luxury.

“When I go to the dentist I don’t think ‘yippie! I’m rich,” he said and got a laugh out of the crowd.