Gubernatorial candidates Dan Malloy and Tom Foley both have visions of robust job growth spearheading a rebounding Connecticut economy – but that’s about where the similarities end.

As the campaign nears its final month and the jobs debate intensifies, the candidates have spent as much time tearing down their opponents’ plans as they do promoting their own.

“Dan Malloy has just proposed his second new government agency in 10 days,” Foley said in a statement released eartlier this week, shortly after Malloy announced his strategy to stimulate Connecticut’s deep water ports in Bridgeport, New Haven and New London.

Malloy, who also offered a plan last week to expand commercial activity at Bradley International Airport, ran afoul of Foley on both proposals because they empower oversight authorities to spearhead revitalization of these infrastructures. “Bad idea,” Foley said. “Connecticut doesn’t need more government. We need more jobs.”

Malloy, the Democratic nominee and former mayor of Stamford, responds that his Republican opponent’s “Plan Forward for Connecticut” – a blueprint Foley touts frequently – is founded on wishful thinking.

Though Foley’s plan stresses the need for fewer state mandates, better marketing, a simplified and expedited permit approval process and other business-friendly measures, it hinges on reducing the size and cost of state government.

And for Foley, a Greenwich businessman, that means eliminating a projected $3.4 billion state budget gap projected for next fiscal year without any tax hikes. Malloy has said that simply isn’t possible, given that this unprecedented deficit is equal to nearly one-fifth of all current state government spending, and about half of the annual receipts from the entire state income tax.

Foley’s plan “is founded on the traditional Republican platitudes which have been mouthed by the last two Republican governors,” Malloy said. “And these are governor’s who didn’t get the job done. … Hands off, laissez-faire, has gotten Connecticut nowhere.”

The former mayor contends he can grow jobs, but only if government plays the role of a “junior partner” and tackles the problems the private sector cannot. If this occurs, the business investments will follow.

Malloy said this week he would merge the three regional port authorities – empowered with varying degrees of authority – into one statewide entity, and reassign $50 million in planned borrowing from existing state development initiatives to support dredging and other infrastructure work needed to attract public investment.

“Government has a much more nuanced role to play,” he said.

Malloy’s plan for Bradley and five other state-owned airports involves less government control, ending Department of Transportation oversight and placing them under the jurisdiction of a new authority with broad powers to oversee management, operations, marketing, and financial planning and bonding.

But unionized state employees would have to be retained by the new authority, and those workers would be given similar protections to those offered in 1996 to state lottery workers when that gaming operation was turned over to a quasi-public corporation.

“Government doesn’t create jobs, businesses do,” said Foley, who insists private business investments won’t ever be forthcoming unless state government can get its fiscal house in order, a step that cannot happen if the deficit is closed with major tax hikes.

Marketing and a business-friendly environment are important, according to the Foley plan, which also calls for some new incentives to lenders to get more start-up capital and other credit available, particularly for small businesses.

But fiscal stability for companies fearful of more tax hikes is crucial, he says.

“The right jobs policy is not more government and more spending,” he said, “but getting government off the backs of employers and solving the uncertainty created by our budget deficit. After we have done that, employers will be comfortable hiring people again.”

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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