Two days after his inaugural address Gov. Dannel Malloy took time out of his busy schedule to tell nearly 600 business leaders that he won’t always agree with them, but that he hopes to bring some consistency to the debate and tax structure of the state.
“We need to be clear. We need to be plain spoken. We need to be supportive. You need to be able to count on us,“ Malloy said Friday at the annual Economic Summit and Outlook sponsored by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and the Metro Hartford Alliance. “We need to stop the yearly debate on every subject.”
While it seemed like a little thing, the statement received a round of applause from the audience.
John Rathgeber, president and CEO of CBIA, said “that’s really important.”
“Consistency in economic and fiscal policies is one of the things companies large and small look at when they’re going to make they’re decisions,” Rathgeber said. “We need a long term solution so we don’t continue this cycle, after cycle of how are we going to dig our way out of this hole this year.”
But while there was a lot of common ground, Rathgeber and Malloy will agree to disagree on the issue of paid sick days. Malloy supports allowing employees who work a certain amount of hours to earn paid sick time, while Rathgeber and most business groups wonder how companies will find the money to pay for the unfunded mandate.
“If we have the right balance between reducing the size of state government and really transforming state government so it’s efficient,” then Malloy will continue to have the support of the business community, Rathgeber said. “We don’t want to cut the safety net, we don’t want to eliminate aid to schools. We would like to see the delivery system which brings these products and services be much more efficient.”
But the changes won’t be easy and they may not come quickly.
“We won’t be necessarily able to do all of that overnight,” Malloy admitted. “What we need to do most immediately is work through the problems we are currently presented with. I want to be very clear that even though I’m not happy with where we are I understand we got here with the best of intentions.”
“We had all hoped that this recession would be like every other post-World War II recession,” Malloy said. “We all hoped the spigot would not be cut off in Washington…we all hoped we wouldn’t be down 90,000 jobs.”
“There is no calvary—except us,” Malloy told the crowd. “Because today we have to begin a new relationship and I need you to help me in that relationship. I cannot cut our way out of this deficit. I cannot eliminate $3.5 to $3.7 billion in expenditures and be a state that we as Connecticut residents aspire to be.”
On the other hand Malloy also admitted he can’t tax his way out of this. “The idea that we would raise taxes by $3.5 to $3.7 billion is absolutely ruinous,” Malloy said. “I’m going to do it without gimmicks. I’m going to do it asking sacrifice.”
“But what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to get to a point where our state stands on our own two feet,” Malloy said.
It’s unlikely under the new accounting practices, which will expose the structural gaps in the state budget, that things will be worked out in the first fiscal year.
“We’re going to try to give you a system of taxation and expenditures that you can rely upon,“ Malloy said. “Then we need to turn our attention to regulation.”
After making the statement Malloy felt it was necessary to remind them that he’s a Democrat, which received a collective chuckle from the crowd.
“I believe in appropriate regulation,” he added. “But I also believe Connecticut doesn’t speak with a very clear voice—doesn’t send a good message.”