Malloy finds UConn economist insightful — and a little depressing

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was careful Friday neither to dismiss nor embrace a new report from the University of Connecticut that concluded the state technically might still be in a recession.

The study, prepared by the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis — which is helmed by economist Fred V. Carstensen — shows the state’s economy had been damaged more severely than early reports demonstrated.

It also warned the state could see little or no net job growth over the next 18 months, a grim prospect as Malloy looks ahead to a re-election campaign in 2014.

“I like Fred a lot and I talk to him frequently,” the governor said while fielding questions from reporters following Friday’s State Bond Commission meeting in the Legislative Office Building. “But Fred’s never one to see the sunny side.”

But the governor was quick to add that had past administrations paid more attention to Carstensen’s call for investments in infrastructure and innovative technology, “our state would be in a far better position.”

The center has praised Malloy for several of his administration’s biggest economic development efforts, including developing a bioscience research initiative with the Jackson Laboratory and the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, and the Hartford-to-New Britain busway.

But Carstensen also has repeatedly urged the governor to mobilize a portion of the nearly $2.5 billion in “stranded” business tax credits that have built up on the state’s ledger over several decades, and to use them to underwrite major business expansions to grow jobs.

“I’m not dismissive of his point,” the governor said, adding that while the state may not be able to act with the scope Carstensen wants, “we’re trying to make appropriate investments.”