A honeymoon begins in Hartford

Honeymoons never last, especially in politics. But Governor-elect Dan Malloy is getting the warm greeting from legislative Republicans in Hartford that Barack Obama never experienced in Washington after winning the presidency.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, are praising Malloy, who will be the first Democratic governor in a generation, as a capable former mayor whom they view as a fiscal realist.

“This will not be Washington D.C., where one party tries to tear down the other party in power simply because the other party did it to them,” McKinney told reporters Tuesday in a press conference with Cafero.

Malloy became the undisputed governor-elect Monday afternoon as Republican Tom Foley conceded after a final review of the chaotic election results. One of Malloy’s first acts was an impromptu appearance at the House Republican caucus.

The 51-member caucus was beginning the process of re-electing Cafero as their leader when there was a knock at the door in the Legislative Office Building

Patrick O’Neill, the press secretary for the caucus, opened the door to find Malloy, accompanied by Lt. Governor-elect Nancy  Wyman and a small entourage on their way to a low-key celebration at a nearby restaurant.

Cafero called the surprise visit a good start, though he said Malloy and Wyman did not minimize the difficulties ahead.

“They were honest enough to say there’s going to be times when we disagree on many things,” Cafero said.

Cafero never has worked with a Democratic governor. In fact, there are only eight House members and five senators whose time in Hartford stretches back to the 1980s, when Connecticut not only had a Democratic governor, but also a Republican legislative majority.

Cafero and House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, were both elected in 1990 and took office in January 1991, the day that independent Lowell P. Weicker Jr. succeeded Democrat William A. O’Neill.

“It’s a new dynamic. We’re on new ground,” Cafero said.

Cafero and McKinney said they support Malloy’s insistence that the state adopt generally accepted accounting principles, otherwise known as GAAP, a tighter approach to budgeting that the Republicans say will give an accurate picture of Connecticut’s rocky finances for the first time.

“To his credit, Governor-elect Malloy wants to start by at least defining what the problem is through GAAP,” Cafero said.

Cafero and McKinney did not automatically rule out a tax increase as part of the solution to the state’s estimated deficit of $3.3 billion, but they will not discuss taxes until spending is reduced.

“We never made a tough choice in the last two years,” Cafero said. “Until we start doing that, how can we even possibly talk about taxes? You can’t.”

“I think it’s just too early to tell,” McKinney said.

McKinney said Republicans may look at taxes “if we are serious about reforming government, making our government smaller and more efficient and making tough spending choices.”