HARTFORD, CT — Republican legislators sat on their hands for most of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s valedictory state-of-the-state address Wednesday, while Democratic lawmakers applauded and whooped during some parts.
“We were hoping the campaigns would not start now during session and then the governor went and did the complete opposite,” House Minority Leader Themis, R-Derby, said. “He was clearly trying to tee-up the elections for November.”
Connecticut is currently facing a $244.6 million budget deficit in 2018 and Malloy sought to close a $165 million deficit in 2019 with tax increases and some spending cuts when he unveiled his budget adjustments earlier this week.
“In a state that has billion dollar deficits he never uttered a word about the economy,” Klarides said.
If the legislature adopted the budget proposal Malloy put forward Monday it would would leave his successor with an $844.1 million deficit in 2020 and $1.5 billion deficit in 2021.
Malloy avoided talking about the budget deficits, and he didn’t make his case for increasing the gas tax by seven cents or installing tolls on Connecticut’s highways.
Malloy used his last state-of-the-state address to talk about the issue of fairness. Fairness regarding how women are treated in the workplace, fairness over wages, fairness in a person’s ability to access health insurance, and fairness at the polls, which included an executive order to study early voting by mail.
Senate Martin Looney, D-New Haven, appreciated Malloy’s agenda.
“It was a superb speech that reflected the core values of not only the Democratic Party of the state, but I believe of the state of Connecticut. It’s the kind of speech and the kind of vision that helped him get elected governor in the first place,” Looney said.
He said many of those issues have been “obscured by the budget crisis.”
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said a lot of the issues Malloy talked about can be done without a fiscal note and won’t impact the bottom line of the state budget.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said Malloy’s speech was an anti-Trump speech.
He said if the governor whose theme for the speech was “fairness” wants to talk about fairness then “let’s talk about the state that has the highest tax rate. We’re crushing the middle class. We’ve cut services to the poor. Where’s the fairness there?”
He said Connecticut residents want to hear about how their political leaders are going to move the state forward and grow the economy.
“I don’t think he understands he’s really not going to be around more than the next three months,” Fasano said.
The legislative session is schedule to adjourn May 9.
“That’s a heck of an agenda,” Fasano said.
He said he doesn’t know if he would be able to get it all passed if he introduced it seven years ago.
“I get it. This was his frustration coming out,” Fasano said of Malloy.
Malloy used part of his speech to back another minimum wage increase.
“Let’s pass a bill that ensures another January does not come and go without a raise in Connecticut’s minimum wage,” Malloy said to applause on the Democratic side of the chamber.
Looney, who supports a minimum wage increase, said he doesn’t believe any minimum wage increase the state has had in the past has hurt businesses. He said it’s a flawed argument.
Connecticut Business and Industry Association President and CEO Joe Brennan said they will likely oppose any minimum wage increase this year, as they’ve done in the past.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, has said they saw a lot of businesses do the right thing after Congress passed the changes to federal tax law.
He said Cigna and Travelers increased their in-house minimum wages using some of the proceeds from the federal tax overhaul. Cigna increased their minimum wage to $16 an hour and Travelers increased its minimum to $15 an hour for any of its employees making less.
Looney said they need increase the minimum wage one dollar per year then index it once it gets to $15 an hour.
Fasano said if you increase the minimum wage in a “dead economy” then you’re going to have more layoffs because businesses won’t be able to afford to keep their workforce.
Aresimowicz said they want to grow the economy by creating jobs and keeping their kids in the state of Connecticut. He said he thinks they can do that with the agenda the governor put forward Wednesday.
Regardless, Aresimowicz said unlike in past years they will be putting these issues up on the board for a vote even if they aren’t sure if it’s going to pass.
“We want people on record,” Aresimowicz said.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said it took Democrats time to adjust to their smaller majority, but they have come to the realization that it may take one or two Republicans to pass some of these initiatives, such as pay equity.
Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, who has been pushing for some of these issues for a long time was excited about what Malloy put forward Wednesday.
“Yes,” Porter shouted throwing her fist into the air as the governor talked about pay equity and making sure that employers are unable to ask about a person’s salary history.
The agenda Malloy unveiled Wednesday is very similar to the one Democratic legislators in the House and the Senate put forward on Tuesday.