New ad revives Malloy’s near-pledge to avoid tax hikes in 2010

An awkward statement about taxes from the 2010 campaign has come back to confront Gov. Dannel P. Malloy four years later.

Grow Connecticut, an independent super PAC with ties to Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley, unveiled a new 30-second television ad Tuesday that charges Malloy with violating a pledge not to raise taxes.

But Roy Occhiogrosso, the political consultant who ran the governor’s 2010 campaign, said the spot – which is edited to interrupt Malloy mid-sentence – distorts the record. It also ignores Malloy’s biggest pledge, Occhiogrosso said, which was to spare municipal aid from cuts while still closing a state budget deficit of historic proportions.

“I want to be very clear: We’re not raising taxes. That’s the last thing we will do,” Malloy said on Oct. 26, 2010 during a televised forum at the studios of WVIT Channel 30 in West Hartford.

The new TV ad opens with black-and-white footage of Malloy speaking those same words.

But while the debate footage in the new commercial ends abruptly with the words “last thing we will do, … ” Malloy four years ago, paused briefly, then added, “…If we have to, and only then to protect the safety net.”

Republicans cried foul after the West Hartford debate four years ago, arguing that the Democratic candidate was trying to have it both ways: to leave voters with the impression tax hikes were unlikely, if not out of the question, yet still leaving verbal wiggle room to pursue them after the election.

The new ad then switches to color and quotes six individuals or couples reacting to the Malloy administration’s record on tax hikes. That includes nearly $1.9 billion in tax hikes signed in May 2011. And while a 2013 increase in the wholesale gasoline tax – worth about 3.5 cents per gallon – had been signed by the previous administration – Malloy and the legislature effectively diverted all funds from that increase into non-transportation programs.

“He said one thing and then he did another,” an individual identified as John from Enfield said in the ad.

A woman identified as Sonya from Windsor said the taxes fell “on the middle class. That’s who got hurt the most.”

Greenwich businessman Tom Foley, who was the GOP nominee four years ago and is again this year, had infuriated Democrats with his own position on state finances during the last campaign.

While nonpartisan analysts were projecting an unprecedented $3.7 billion budget shortfall – almost 20 percent of annual expenses, Foley repeatedly insisted he could close that gap without tax hikes, borrowing or cuts to municipal education grants that represented 10 per cent of all state spending.

Foley’s solution counted on the hope that the last recession would immediately be followed by vigorous economic growth, which never came to pass.

The Foley campaign did not comment on the ad.

“Of course they are taking it out of context,” Occhiogrosso said of the commercial. “The governor did keep his promise, by making tough decisions.” The governor and legislature did not order any reductions in municipal aid and approved modest increases in grants for education and road repair.

“They’ve actually given the governor a chance to talk about the promise he kept,” Occhiogrosso said.

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