Christine Stuart photo

Tom Foley, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, told hundreds of municipal leaders Tuesday at their annual convention that he would hold municipalities harmless when putting together the state budget.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a mayor for 14 years before becoming governor, made the same promise at the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities annual convention. It’s a promise he made in 2010 and followed through with when he took office in January 2011.

In his prepared remarks, Malloy reminded local leaders Tuesday that they would have lost $270 million in education funds in 2011 if his administration hadn’t decided to hold towns harmless for the loss of federal stimulus funds.

“If I lose this election it’s because I kept my fidelity to you,” Malloy told local municipal leaders.

Malloy said he’s proud that Connecticut took a different path to dealing with its budget even though he isn’t quite sure the general public understands how the decision impacted them.

“The reality is we settled our budget difficulties in a different manner than every other state government that faced the kinds of problems that we did,” Malloy said.

Foley, who was supposed to address the crowd at 9:05 a.m., but didn’t arrive at the Connecticut Convention Center until around 9:30 a.m., was the first to tell the crowd that he will hold municipalities harmless.

“I’m not going to reduce funding to cities and towns,” Foley said. “You’ll have the same level of support you’ve had under Gov. Malloy.”

The statement received applause.

Christine Stuart photo

Foley said he wanted to work with local leaders to roll back unfunded state mandates, but couldn’t offer any specifics.

“I’d like to look at them and see which ones are supported by good public policy and the ones that are we’ll figure out how to fund them. The ones that aren’t supported by good public policy we’ll get rid of,” Foley said.

Malloy reminded the friendly crowd that he did not balance the state budget on the backs of local communities even when he was staring down a $3.67 billion budget deficit.

“The difference between us and other states is that we did not balance our budget on the back of local communities,” Malloy said.

The statement received a round of applause.

Foley also told municipal leaders that if he was governor things would be different.

“I am a person who listens,” Foley said. “I am a person who likes working with people to solve problems and I’ve gotten pretty good at it over 35 years in the business world.”

However, Malloy wondered after the event how Foley could make such a statement based on the track record of laying off workers at various companies his private equity group has owned. Foley has disputed the job creation numbers at the Bibb Co., a Georgia textile mill he owned before he sold it in 1996 to its creditors.

“There’s a resounding sense that Connecticut is not faring very well,” Foley said. “People, I think like they’ve lost something. I think they feel like they’ve lost future prospects they thought they had as recently as four or five years ago.”

Foley said Malloy is trying to hide from talking about the real issues by bringing up Foley’s tax returns and his past business dealings.

“You mean I’m trying to hide the fact that we saw 11,000 jobs created last month,” Malloy said. “Or that we’ve seen 70,000 jobs created over the last four years or that every month on a year-to-year basis we’ve seen job growth in the state of Connecticut?…I’m not trying to hide that.”

Malloy pointed out that Foley could end the narrative about his tax returns by releasing them.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said he doesn’t believe the public really cares about Foley’s state tax returns. He said the public wants to know they’ll be able to go back to work and have job security. “Those are the issues he should be talking about,” Boughton said.

Click here to watch Foley and Malloy’s remarks.