In State of the Union, Malloy hears echoes of state’s challenges

Hours after calling for a freeze on state spending, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy flew to Washington to hear a similar message Tuesday night from President Obama during the State of the Union. It was a sobering moment for any governor seeking federal aid.

"In a culture where we have consistently looked to Washington to do more, the idea that Washington in fact may be incapable of doing more is a scary thought," Malloy said in a telephone interview.

Malloy praised Obama for delivering a "tough speech" that sets a tone for him and every other governor facing a fiscal crisis.

Malloy, who was in the audience for the State of the Union as a guest of U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, said Obama's call for a five-year freeze on domestic spending was a blow to any governor who still held out hope of federal aid for the states' fiscal troubles.

Two weeks after his election, Malloy visited Washington to begin networking and laying the groundwork for going after federal dollars. "I want to be very aggressive in going after federal money," Malloy said in November. "I'm going to be in Washington a lot."

Two months later, the president now seems to have closed the door on such hopes. And Malloy, in his fourth trip the Washington since his election, was there to hear it in person.

The president's call for a spending freeze came on the same day that Malloy told reporters in Hartford that he also intends to freeze Connecticut's spending for at least one year.

"It's funny. He talked about a freeze, and guess what I talked about today?" Malloy said.

Malloy said he also identified with the president's focus on improving economic competitiveness, an issue of keen interest in Connecticut, where job growth has been stagnant.

"We've got to recover our competitiveness, as a nation and a state," Malloy said. "So, in many ways, it's the same issue I've got to confront in Connecticut."

Malloy, who benefited from a presidential visit to Bridgeport to get out the vote on the weekend before the gubernatorial election, said the speech was "tough on every interest, every level."

"I'm proud he took on immigration reform, but doubtful that's going to be accomplished," Malloy said. "But I think he was right to take it on."

Malloy arrived in Washington earlier Tuesday evening. He returns on Wednesday morning after interviewing a candidate for state transportation commissioner and meeting with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, on transportation issues.

He plans to hold a press conference in Hartford at 1 p.m. to introduce his choice for labor commissioner, Glenn Marshall. His budget address is Feb. 16.