While Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was at a town hall meeting in Norwalk, his Republican and Democratic opponents were at Yale Law School criticizing his budget for increasing spending and raising taxes.
As he rattled off numbers from Malloy’s budget, Tom Foley, the Republican gubernatorial candidate who lost by just 6,404 votes, tried to point out that spending is going up not down.
Ned Lamont, who lost the Democratic primary to Malloy last summer, wasn’t as critical as Foley, calling it the “first honest budget this state has seen in a long time.” He said what the business community and employers want to see is some level of predictability, which Malloy’s budget delivers.
Foley and Lamont debated Malloy’s budget for about an hour in front of an audience of about 90 Yale students and New Haven community members Monday evening. The event was organized in part by Foley’s new nonprofit Connecticut Policy Institute and various law school groups.
“There are no sacrifices in this budget and no sacrifices for receivers of state spending,” Foley argued. “Taxpayers do all the heavy lifting.”
Malloy’s budget cuts spending $1.76 billion, raises taxes about $1.5 billion, and asks state employees for $1 billion in concessions in the first year of the two year budget.
Lamont said he finds it interesting that Malloy’s tax and revenue package is so precise, but other parts of his budget like the $1 billion in union concessions is pretty much a question mark.
Foley said he would be in a better position than Malloy to negotiate with the unions. He said he wouldn’t be as “timid,” because he wouldn’t owe his victory to union support.
“I’ve heard Dan Malloy described a lot of ways, but I’ve never heard him described as timid,” Lamont countered. Instead, Lamont called Malloy “a bull in a China shop,” who hasn’t equivocated with any special interests.
Foley refused to believe state employee unions were being asked to give up $1 billion a year in concessions. He said he doesn’t believe the budget cuts funding to state employee unions and simply level funds them. It’s a conclusion no one in state government, including Republican lawmakers, have made. But Foley remained adamant that his conclusion was accurate based on his reading of Malloy’s budget.
Lamont challenged Foley’s assessment of the state employee concessions. He said state employees are being asked to giveback 15 to 20 percent of their salaries and he doesn’t think that’s where Malloy should start.
“It starts at the top,” Lamont said. “How about the governor? How about the lieutenant governor? How about the constitutionals? How about those commissioners? How about the legislators? How about their staff?”
He said after looking toward those places for savings Malloy should leverage the nonprofit community in the state to help it provide services, at a lower costs than the state can currently provide. He said he would take the hundreds of millions in savings from that and lower the middle class tax burden.
“I think this budget really hammers the middle class,” Lamont said. It’s a theme Malloy has heard time and again at his town hall meetings.
“What we don’t need is more taxpayers, not more taxes,” Lamont said.
Lamont advocated for property tax reform, a more long term vision for the state, and elimination of corporation taxes in the state. He said the later would send a message “loud and clear that Connecticut is open for business.”
“This is really silly stuff,” Foley concluded. He said not even New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was able to close a $10 billion deficit with spending cuts alone and without raising taxes. He said Malloy’s budget is out of sync with every other state in the country.
But Foley, who is from Greenwich and paid more in taxes in 2009 than Malloy and his wife made in income, praised Malloy’s decision not to boost income taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents by more than 0.02 percent.