The state’s largest health care workers’ union launched a new television ad Wednesday attacking Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s austerity policies and urging state officials to consider raising taxes on Connecticut’s wealthy.

The 30-second spot from SEIU 1199 also continues the union’s attack on the ongoing state employee layoffs the administration first announced in mid-April to help avoid any tax increase this fiscal year.

The ad opens with three quick video clips of Malloy referencing Connecticut’s “new economic reality.”

A woman representing SEIU then appears and states, “Connecticut’s best days are not behind us, they’re ahead of us. Laying off workers hurts the state’s economy.”

Taking aim at the governor’s often-used phrase, she says that “we have a ‘new economic reality’ too — one where politicians have the courage to stand up to millionaires and billionaires and stop balancing the budget on the backs of middle-class families.

“We’re not going to settle for perpetual recession any more. We know there’s a better future out there, and we’re going to find it.”

“We couldn’t agree more that a bright future lies ahead for Connecticut,” Malloy spokesman Chris McClure said Wednesday. “But to get there, we have to face reality — we can’t simply ignore the fiscal challenges facing our state. Like working families throughout our many great communities, we need to live within our means and adapt to a changing economy. That means making difficult but necessary budget cuts so that we don’t spend more than we have, and so that we can continue on our path of recovery.”

“The Malloy administration is asking working families to shoulder the burden of these fiscal challenges,” 1199 spokeswoman Jennifer Schneider said. “Connecticut has been one of the slowest states in the nation to recover from the recession.  Clearly these policies have failed Connecticut and middle class workers.”

The “new economic reality” phrase has been the centerpiece of a new austerity message the administration has embraced since mid-2015 as it became clear that the state budget deficit projections that plagued Malloy’s first term were not over.

The governor insisted throughout his 2014 re-election campaign that nonpartisan deficit forecasts were wrong, and that growth projections for Connecticut’s economy — and correspondingly for state revenues — were too conservative.

But state government has had nothing but deficits since the governor’s re-election.

Connecticut closed the 2015 fiscal year with the General Fund $113.2 million in the red. And both the administration and Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo estimate the 2016 fiscal year ended on June 30 about $279.4 million in deficit — a shortfall of about 1.5 percent.

Malloy has said repeatedly since June 2015 that Connecticut’s economic growth since the last recession , which ran from March 2008 to January 2010, has not returned to pre-recession levels. The Democratic governor’s Republican critics say this economic shift was evident years earlier and that the governor would not admit it until after he had won a second term.

After nonpartisan analysts warned state finances, unless adjusted, were on pace to run almost $1 billion in deficit in 2016-17, state employee union leaders and others on Connecticut’s political left increased pressure over the past year for higher tax rates on the state’s wealthiest households and on big corporations.

The governor and legislature, which ordered major tax increases in 2011 and in 2015, instead closed that gap without tax hikes.

Part of that plan involves layoffs.

By mid-August state government had laid off 1,052 workers across several agencies and departments, including  113 at the Department on Developmental Services. The administration also announced plans to privatize 40 group homes and lay off another 492 DDS employees — most after Jan. 1.

Despite the layoffs, nonpartisan analysts are projecting a $1.3 billion General Fund deficit in the next fiscal year, 2017-18.

SEIU, which represents many of the group homes’ staff, now has aired three commercials protesting the administration’s fiscal policies.

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Keith M. PhaneufState Budget Reporter

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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