Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s visit Tuesday afternoon to the Bloomfield Senior Center was his first daytime town hall style meeting and his 54th since taking office.
Asked if his visit with about 50 senior citizens, Bloomfield Mayor Sydney Schulman, and members of the Bloomfield Town Council could be viewed as political, Malloy said there was “no grand design” behind the event.
“We’ve done 54 of these events. We had never done a senior one,” Malloy said. “Somebody had the . . . actually I had the idea.”
He suggested to his staff that he wanted to organize an event in a community setting during the day. The population most likely to attend that is seniors, “so let’s go to a senior center,” Malloy recalled.
After the event, Malloy said he enjoyed himself and would do it again. Republicans had little doubt that he would.
“Dan Malloy isn’t fooling anyone,” Elissa Voccola, executive director of the Connecticut Republican Party, said. “The purpose of nearly every event he has attended over the past six months has been to mislead voters about his record in hopes of convincing them that he deserves a second term.”
During the event, Malloy fielded about five questions from the audience and was asked about everything from natural gas and fracking waste to the cost of higher education.
One woman expressed her frustration with getting Connecticut Natural Gas to extend its gas line 2,000 feet to about 100 homes in her neighborhood. Expanding natural gas lines was at the heart of Malloy’s energy strategy.
Malloy told her that he wants the utilities to add 280,000 new natural gas customers over the next 10 years. He said he would give her message to the utilities.
Another woman expressed her concern about fracking waste making its way to the state.
“We do support a moratorium and perhaps a complete ban on fracking materials that someone might want to bring into our state,” Malloy said. “We do want to also understand what is described as fracking materials.”
Malloy said there’s no doubt that the General Assembly will enact rules this year on fracking waste. However, there are two competing pieces of legislation. One is an outright ban on the material, while the other would impose a moratorium until the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection could come up with regulations.
Malloy opened with how the Great Recession of 2008 hit Connecticut harder than any of the other states, but under his leadership they’ve been able to reduce the state’s long-term liabilities and eliminate a $3.67 billion budget deficit he inherited in 2011.
This year the state will run a $504.9 million surplus, but that surplus turns into a deficit of nearly $1 billion in 2016, according to nonpartisan legislative analyst’s.
“We are also cutting taxes. A lot of people don’t talk about that,” Malloy told Bloomfield seniors. “We had to raise revenue when we first came in facing a $3.6 billion deficit. We also had to change our relationship with state employees. We also had to cut spending. We did all of those things but now we’re in a position to begin the process of cutting taxes and we are eliminating a number of those taxes.”
The taxes Malloy is referring to is a sales tax on over-the-counter medicine. Malloy and the Democrat-controlled Finance Committee proposed eliminating that tax they created in 2011. Eliminating the tax means the state will be foregoing $16.5 million in fiscal year 2015.
Malloy proposed cutting about $228.1 million in revenues in fiscal year 2015. The largest portion is a $155 million sales and gas tax refund program where 2.1 million taxpayers will each get checks for $55.
In March, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 63 percent of voters believed the $55 refund check was a “political gimmick.” About 45 percent of voters had heard nothing about it and only 22 percent believe it’s good public policy.
That same poll found 65 percent of voters opposed the last year’s plan to make the game of keno available in locations around the state, outside of the casinos. The budget Malloy signed last year included the game, which will be run by the Connecticut Lottery Corporation. It’s expected to bring in about $13.5 million next fiscal year. Lawmakers proposed bills to repeal the game thought to be a last-ditch effort to close a budget gap last year. But those bills died in committee.
It’s possible that keno, which no one will claim credit for adding to last year’s budget, could be repealed during the budget process. However, at this point, even with a $504.9 million surplus, it’s unlikely.
“I have said I would sign a budget that didn’t have keno,” Malloy said Tuesday. “I’ll sit down with the leaders and members of the legislature and try to work all that out.”
He said he’s perfectly happy to eliminate keno if that’s what the legislature wants.
“I’m ready to do away with keno if the legislature has an agreement on it,” Malloy said.