CROMWELL — Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy tried his best to put a contentious re-election campaign behind him Tuesday as he addressed the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce.
“At this point, four years into this, I own this stuff,” Malloy said.
In the same breath Malloy acknowledged that things aren’t perfect — a reflection of the deficit and the economy he inherited when he took office in 2011.
“We had a yawning deficit over a two-year period that was close to $7 billion,” Malloy said. “We hadn’t seen job creation in 22 years on a net basis. We hadn’t invested in our housing stock in a generation. We hadn’t invested in transportation in two generations.”
He said there is a reason to have hope.
“Government is small. Private sector is bigger and we’re making progress,” Malloy said.
He said to continue that momentum the state has to continue making the investments it’s been making, “but we have to open up this front on transportation.”
He said no one has been honest with the people of Connecticut regarding its transportation infrastructure.
“It’s as if we want to forever complain about it and have our leaders do relatively little,” Malloy said.
Malloy admitted that he hasn’t done enough over the past four years, but he promised that would change in his second term, which starts in January.
“This is the thing about transportation systems: as you build them, as you improve them, they are in fact used and they drive economic activity,” Malloy said.
When the Hartford-to-Springfield rail line gets up to 25 trains per day, “it’s going to pay economic dividends.” He said the busway between New Britain and Hartford is now being called a success a few months before it officially opens because of the economic development it’s created. Malloy wasn’t willing to say how he would fund what he anticipates will be a large investment in transportation infrastructure during his second term.
He said that will become clear when he releases his budget Feb. 4. All he said Tuesday was that he’s not holding back and has a lot on the agenda.
“I’m working on a big vision,” Malloy said. “I’m working on what it will take for us to be competitive with other states and I’m going lead that discussion. Then people can tell me what needs to come off the list.”
Malloy, who implemented the largest tax increase in the state’s history in 2011, said the next four years needs to be about making smart investments.
Does that mean a tax increase to fund those investments? Malloy campaigned on a promise not to raise taxes.
“Tax policy has to be driven by what we need to do to have a great state that we all desire,” Malloy said.
Malloy reminded the crowd that he had “to right the ship and the ship has been righted.”
Now it’s about where we will take it, he added.
“You will remember that I said from time-to-time that I was willing to do what I felt was right even if it would cost me an election, which it did not,” Malloy reminded the business crowd. “But now is the time for us to come together. Let’s put this election aside and let’s collectively, chamber by chamber — not in the legislature, in the communities — make sure we have the right projects to be funded to drive our investments.”
Malloy’s holiday message was that Connecticut’s best days are ahead of it.
Malloy broke with the traditions of previous governors to use the speech to the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce as an opportunity to be funny and to make fun of himself or his administration.
In introducing Malloy, Larry McHugh, president of the Middlesex Chamber and the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees, said he “was dealt an incredibly tough hand.”
“An economy that was really in bad shape. Two major storms, Sandy Hook, and through it all he continued to maintain a positive, dedicated, wonderful, upbeat attitude to all of the citizens of the state of Connecticut,” McHugh said.