Both Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his Republican challenger Tom Foley said they will not increase taxes next year and they had both smoked marijuana, but that’s about where the similarities ended.
In a lightning round at the end of Tuesday’s debate, WFSB host Dennis House asked the candidates if they’ve ever smoked marijuana.
“Whoa,” Foley replied surprised by the question. “Yes.”
“Once,” Malloy replied.
As far as the budget is concerned, whoever is elected governor will inherit a projected $2.8 billion budget deficit, according to the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis. Malloy explained that those projections assume a 7.8 percent increase in spending.
“During the time that I’ve been governor we have not increased spending by more than 2.8 percent,” Malloy said.
He expressed confidence that under his leadership the state would continue to hold the line at a 2.8 percent spending increase, and would thus not end the year with a budget deficit. And he said he would not raise taxes.
“That’s not a promise I made four years ago,” Malloy said. “I was weary of the situation I was inheriting if I was to be elected.”
Foley said Malloy can’t be trusted not to increase taxes based on his track record.
In 2011, Malloy eventually raised taxes $1.8 billion in order to close a $3.67 billion budget deficit.
Foley said spending has gone up $3 billion under a Malloy administration. Foley promised to keep spending flat for two years.
Malloy pointed out that by keeping spending flat, he and Foley are on the same page because it means Foley would maintain current spending levels that are based on revenue from the 2011 tax increase.
Foley said he can’t get rid of the tax increase Malloy implemented because Malloy has committed that spending.
“He’s made commitments and a lot of these commitments you can’t get out of,” Foley said in a post-debate interview. “The next governor has to accept the commitments the previous governor made.”
During the debate, Malloy pointed out that Foley plans to use the increased tax revenue in order to balance his budget.
“When you heard Mr. Foley speak he didn’t talk about cutting back that spending. In fact he incorporates the spending that already exists,” Malloy said. “There won’t be a deficit and there won’t be tax increases. I’m taking that pledge when I couldn’t take it before because this is a budget that I own and I’m willing to own.”
Foley said if he was elected he wouldn’t blame Malloy for any problems he inherited, unlike Malloy, who often cites the $3.67 billion deficit he inherited from former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Joe Visconti, a Republican who will be on the ballot with Malloy and Foley in November, was excluded from Tuesday’s debate. However, Visconti was outside the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford chanting with a crowd of supporters that “Malloy and Foley are one in the same.”
WFSB officials didn’t include him because he didn’t receive 10 percent support in the last public poll. He received 7 percent and has been told he will be included in at least one future debate and potentially three others based on criteria, which he said the organizers of two of those debates refuse to disclose.
During Tuesday’s debate, Visconti added his commentary of the televised debate on his Twitter page.
When Malloy questioned the fairness of Foley’s partial tax returns, which show the Greenwich millionaire didn’t pay any federal or state income taxes in 2011 and 2012, Visconti, who has had some tax issues in the past, Tweeted: “Isn’t that the American Dream?”
“Even though he has a $10 million house and a $5 million boat and is worth millions and millions of dollars and pays no income taxes in the state of Connecticut or to the federal government,” Malloy said. “That’s what Tom Foley told us about himself in his returns.”
That means a person who earns $50,000 a year is paying a tax rate of about 17 percent, while Foley’s was “zero” for two years.
“I think most people who fill out a tax return know that when you don’t have any income in a year, you don’t pay any taxes,” Foley said.
He congratulated Malloy for having more earned income in the last two years.
Malloy’s partial tax returns showed both Malloy and his wife had an adjusted gross income of $303,467 in 2012 and paid about 25.3 percent of that to the federal government and 5.5 percent of it to the state of Connecticut. In 2013, their adjusted gross income was about $305,534 and their tax liability was about the same.
Foley shrugged off questions about his wealth.
“He almost seems angry about it, doesn’t he?” Foley said. “I don’t think class warfare works in America, so if that’s what he’s trying to do I don’t think people buy it.”