They may not be from the same party, but former Republican-turned-Independent Gov. Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. showed sympathy for the situation Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy found himself in when he took office 18 months ago.
“I came into office, it was the same thing, there was a big deficit,” Weicker told the Connecticut Network’s Diane Smith during an hour long conversation at the Old State House Tuesday.
Weicker was famously quoted as a gubernatorial candidate saying that to impose an income tax would be “like pouring gasoline on the fires of recession.” Weeks after taking office back in 1991 that’s exactly what he had to do.
“When I made that statement the state was $50 million in the hole, by the time we got around to doing our work on the budget it was $1 billion in the hole. That sort of changed the circumstances,” Weicker said.
Malloy, on the other hand, took his chances and refused to rule out a tax increase if elected. He won by one of the smallest margins in recent history.
Weicker said he ran every possible budget scenarios he could think of and in order to balance the budget without an income tax he would have had to impose a 13 percent sales tax, which would have hurt low and middle income residents.
So what does Weicker say to those who still oppose his income tax? “They’ve had 20 years to repeal it; it has not been repealed. Instead the money has been spent.” He’s been making a similar argument for years.
Similarly, Malloy inherited a $3.6 billion budget deficit, which he has tried to close with the largest tax increase in state history and $1.6 billion in state employee concessions.
“He is in exactly the same position I was in,” Weicker said of the current governor. “For those critical of Dan Malloy right now I say hold it. Dan Malloy didn’t create the mess he came to solve.”
Lester Baun of Ellington said it would take decades for Malloy’s budget to reach a significant amount of savings. Baun said he was disappointed with Malloy’s budget plan because “there comes a point where we have to pay our bills. The state can’t do what the federal government does- borrow forever.”.
“I don’t think it’s fair for me to comment at this juncture. ..I want to see how it works out,” Weicker said. But he couldn’t help adding that Malloy “obviously under-raised revenue, there’s no question about that.”
Weicker’s solution though to the state’s budget woes and beyond has nothing to do with its fiscal policies, instead he said the state needs to change its “one-party rule.”
He said the state needs a stronger Republican Party and Republican State Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. might be the man for the job.
“The cure for our ills in Connecticut is to get a strong Republican Party going,” Weicker said. “I’m encouraged by the fact that I like Jerry Labriola.”
Weicker called Labriola, whose failed congressional campaign in 2010 was boosted by his affiliation to the Tea Party, a “moderate Republican.”
As far as the current campaigns, Weicker said he hasn’t endorsed anyone running for retiring U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s seat. Lieberman beat Weicker for the seat back in 1988 after receiving support from Republicans who were upset with Weicker’s attempt to bring the Republican party closer to the center.
In closing, Weicker said he wants his legacy to be in his work for the environment, and his work for disabled people.
Smith’s full interview with Weicker will air 12:51 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. today on CT-N. It’s also up online here.