Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT—Politics is a rough sport and you can make the argument that in the past few years it hasn’t been rougher on anyone more than Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Poll after poll shows he’s among the most – if not the most unpopular – governors in the country.

And to add insult to injury a new poll by Global Strategy Group shows Malloy is less popular in Connecticut than President Donald Trump, according to a new poll of likely voters—a state Democrat Hillary Clinton handily won over Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Malloy’s approval rating was 24 percent and Trump’s was 36 percent.

Malloy is not seeking re-election and as he gave his last State of the State address on Wednesday in front of the General Assembly, the question of what his legacy will be years down the road as Connecticut’s governor for two, four-year terms, is out there.

Will the man who not only is Connecticut’s governor but also once was the man who served two terms as chair of the Democratic Governors Association be remembered more kindly as time passes?

Or is his legacy tied to the lingering financial crisis that got worse during his tenure as governor, to the point where the state is running a multi-billion budget deficit and is looking at unpopular possibilities such as tolls, higher taxes and other revenue streams to stem the sea of red ink.

In his speech to the General Assembly, Malloy said his record as governor is a strong one and focused on the issue of fairness as he sought to put some of the financial pressures that defined his tenure to the side.

He ticked off these accomplishments: Improved health care, stating the number of uninsured people in the state have been reduced by half; that under his watch the state has diversified its energy portfolio, bringing in more than a billion dollars in new investments in green energy and creating 13,000 new jobs along the way; that under his administration the state has made investments in housing a key priority of his administration.

Additionally, Malloy said, gun violence prevention has been a landmark achievement in his administration, stating Connecticut was ranked as one of the states with the lowest rates of gun deaths in the nation, and one of only a handful of states that have seen a decline in gun deaths in recent years.

He points to the series of tougher gun laws Connecticut passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre as one of his proudest accomplishments.

He said in the area of criminal justice Connecticut has had the largest reduction in violent crime of any state in the nation.

Malloy also said the state has been a leader in improving voting rights, paid sick leave, pay equity, hiking minimum wage and passing legislation prohibiting harassment in the workplace. This year he’s doubling down on those initiatives by taking them to the next level.

Ronald Schurin, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut, called Malloy’s speech “progressive,” adding, “I’m sure it’s one he would have liked to have been able to give in his last seven years.”

Schurin said Malloy’s last speech is one “that should appeal to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party,” stating Malloy’s focus on fairness will resonate.

In his speech, Malloy said: “Fairness lies at the very center of our national origin, and our national purpose. It is part of the American promise – that if freedom means anything, it means a fair shot at a decent life for all people.

“Fairness is also the compact we make with one another – in our homes, in our neighborhoods, and in our workplaces. It’s the golden rule we teach our children: to treat others as you wish to be treated,” Malloy said.

Schurin said he wouldn’t be surprised if Malloy’s legacy is viewed in kinder terms a few years down the road.

“He had to deal with dreary fiscal concerns his entire tenure,” Schurin said. “I’m sure he never wants to hear the word ‘pension’ again. He made it his priority to put Connecticut’s books in balance again.”

Schurin added: “Unfortunately that’s not the kind of issue that gets people excited. I’m not an economist but if things turn around economically for Connecticut a few years from now he may be viewed more favorably.

“We’re still kicking the can down the road a little bit, but not as much,” Schurin said.

Quinnipiac University Political Science Professor Scott McLean view wasn’t as generous as Schurins.

“In looking back at a century of progressive reform and calling for Connecticut to lead the way in “fairness,” the governor was hoping to find a way to unite the General Assembly around a word acceptable to suburban representatives, who hold the pivotal vote on many of these issues,” McLean said.

McLean said the speech was “a speech by a governor who has not been chastened by Democratic loss of the Senate majority and an abysmal job approval rating in polls.”

“Context matters,” McLean went on. “In 2015 when the Democrats had sizeable majorities in both Houses of the Assembly,  this kind of speech would have truly set the Assembly’s agenda. In 2018 it is a statement of progressive aspirations and symbols in reaction to Congressional Republicans and ‘he who must not be named’ in the White House.”

McLean added: “It noticeably left out details of how to pay for government shortfalls, whether to institute highway tolls, how to restore funding of state higher education, why it is important to reduce education cost sharing for some towns, or how to move us closer to clean energy.”

He concluded: “All those issues were hotly debated in the last session and led to Connecticut being the last of the states to pass a budget, and they will again, starting today.”

Gov. Malloy will give his last state of the state address at noon to a joint session of the General Assembly. Members are streaming in now.

Posted by on Wednesday, February 7, 2018