On the eve of his second State of the State address, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy refused to go off-message, even if the topic was a favorable poll from a surprising source: a conservative think tank that often criticizes the Democratic governor.
“I don’t want to talk about polls,” Malloy said. “We don’t comment on polls.”
Not even a poll that shows him with a majority approving his job as governor? In poll speak, Malloy finally is above water: 51 percent approve and 46 percent disapprove of his 13 eventful months as Connecticut’s 88th governor.
The poll commissioned by the Yankee Institute for Public Policy showed a net improvement of 19 percentage points from the end of his first session in June, when his approve/disapprove numbers were 42 percent to 56 percent.
He essentially is back where he was a year ago, when Yankee had him at 50 percent to 46 percent.
“I will say this, that we have traversed a tremendous amount of territory in the last 13 months, going from a state where we had the largest per-capita deficit in the nation to a point where we establish our means and live within them,” he said.
Malloy intends to reinforce that message Wednesday.
He seldom falters when it comes to message discipline. It is a trait on display Tuesday during a press conference explaining another of his planned education reforms, and it will be evident Wednesday in his State of the State.
He waved off questions about House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan’s call for boosting the minimum wage by $1.50 in two steps, which could give Connecticut the highest minimum wage in the nation.
“I’m just trying not to be dragged into every conversation that is out there,” Malloy said.
He has abandoned thoughts of proposing a major expansion of legalized gambling, an idea that was met with legislative opposition as he floated several trial balloons.
Malloy told reporters Dec. 28 that the Connecticut Lottery was exploring Keno, an electronic drawing game that other states allow in bars, restaurants and Keno parlors. “I think the Lottery wants to look at Keno,” Malloy said then. “It certainly has to be one of the things on the table.”
On the eve of his speech, it is off the table — a potential distraction gone.
His State of the State will reinforce the story he has told time and again: Dannel P. Malloy, the first Democratic governor in 20 years, has stabilized the state’s finances by managing for the long-term.
“I have said this from day one: I manage for long-term results, hoping there is a short-term by-product, and we’re going to continue to manage on a long-term basis,” Malloy said.
He intends to defend the difficult fiscal choices made in his first year, then pivot to the priority he set last summer: education reform. His discussion of fiscal policy may take longer than anticipated in the summer.
Despite a $1.5 billion tax increase, the state’s finances hover somewhere between deficit and surplus. Based on recent revenue estimates, Malloy will have to be diligent to end the year in the black.
Malloy said the continued fiscal challenges have not forced him to curtail his ambitions for education reform. On Tuesday, he folded his arms and smiled when his education commissioner, Stefan Pryor, talked about making Connecticut a national player in education.
“Education reform, a package will be adopted this year,” Malloy said. “The full impact of that package will not be understood for years, several years, to come. We manage for long-term results, not short-term results.”
It is a message Malloy has repeated since taking the oath of office 13 months ago. It was one he repeated three times on Tuesday.
“I didn’t manage for short-term results when I was the mayor for 14 years. I’m not going to switch and manage for short-term results as governor,” Malloy said. “I’m going to do what I think is the right thing to do, whether it’s popular or not, to try to move the state forward.”
According to the Yankee Institute, it is popular in his second February as governor with precisely 51 percent of voters.
The Yankee telephone poll of 500 likely voters was conducted Feb. 1 and 2 by Pulse Opinion Research. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.