Gov. Dannel P. Malloy continued to wage his undeclared campaign for re-election on the air Monday, vigorously defending his fiscal track record and dismissing deficits forecast for the future.
Appearing on “Where We Live,” WNPR’s weekday public affairs program, Malloy stopped just short of conceding to host John Dankosky that the re-election campaign – though unannounced – is already under way.
Governor is ‘in it for the long haul’
“Well, I either am or not (running again), and I’ll make a decision and an announcement at some point in the future,” Malloy said to open the hour-long program. “I’ve never hidden that I enjoy the job. I like the challenge.”
But when pressed by Dankosky, the governor acknowledged he first ran for office knowing the state’s problems couldn’t be addressed in one term.
“I don’t think anyone in the state of Connecticut, people who like me and people who hate me, think I’m not in it for the long haul,” Malloy said. “Listen, I signed up for this job knowing how bad things were going to be. I’m trying to spend as much time, of my time, not talking about politics, as possible.”
The governor added that Republicans likely face a primary for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, and he intends to watch that contest for a while.
“Let them throw some elbows at one another other,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll throw some at my direction. I’m in no hurry at all, John. I just don’t want to talk about politics. I want to talk about good government.”
Rebate is not a re-election stunt
The Democratic governor insisted that Connecticut has made significant progress toward good government – and particularly toward healthier finances – since his administration began three years ago.
“I think we’ve turned some major corners,” he said, insisting that the $155 million tax rebate he proposed this month – sending about $55 this summer to most middle-income taxpayers – was not dictated by re-election year politics.
“It’s the first time we’ve had a very large surplus, $500 million,” he said. “What else would you do with the money? You give it back to people. You cut taxes.”
Malloy’s plan also includes depositing $240 million in the budget’s emergency reserve and $100 million in the cash-starved state employee pension fund.
But Dankosky noted that surplus, in part, stems from Malloy and the Democratic-controlled legislature’s decisions to defer hundreds of millions of dollars in debt payments until after the election. In addition, more than $200 million used for new town aid, stem cell research and pollution abatement programs has been removed from the operating budget and funded through borrowing – a practice Malloy strongly criticized as a candidate in 2010.
Though the governor acknowledged that his budgets have employed controversial fiscal practices, he thinks they are far less common than they were during his Republican predecessors’ administrations.
“Am I 100 percent pure?” he said, citing this year’s raid of gasoline tax revenues from the transportation system as an example. “Well I am pure in my intentions because we’re getting to that target (dedicating all fuel revenues for transportation next year) after years of raiding that fund.”
Minimum wage hike would fight poverty
Malloy also resisted suggestions that his recent call to bolster the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2017 was predicated by election-year politics.
Dankosky played a clip of Malloy from a December 2013 show during which the governor – when asked about the prospect of a minimum wage above $10 per hour – said, “I’m not sure how far out-front of every other state we have to get.”
Connecticut’s minimum wage already was set to reach $8.70 per hour – which it did last month — and then to jump to $9 in 2015. “With this increase on January 1st we’ll be, I think, in the top five or six states,” the governor said in December.
His new proposal would bump up the 2015 rate to $9.15, go to $9.60 in 2016 and $10.10 in 2017.
The governor cited recent reports that showed the minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation, and is far out of proportion given how much business productivity has risen.
“I think there’s a recognition that with all of the expenses working families have, having a minimum wage that keeps people, technically, in poverty, on a national basis, even though they’re working 40 hours a week, makes no sense at all,” he said. “… I’m an advocate for people who work 40 hours a week not being in poverty.”