Gov. Dannel Malloy touched briefly on Connecticut’s finances Wednesday against the hovering backdrop of the Newtown school shootings in his third state of the state address.
“It won’t surprise anyone here today that this speech is very different than the one I first envisioned giving,” Malloy said at the state capitol in Hartford, less than a month after a shooter killed 27 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Malloy, who fought back tears and whose voice trembled while he lauded the shooting victims, said Connecticut made significant progress coping with its budget challenges the past two years.
Late last month, Malloy signed a deficit-mitigation bill that the General Assembly passed in a special session. The plan, combined with spending cuts Malloy announced in November by invoking his rescission authority, covered nearly all of the $365 million deficit that his administration had projected.
“We didn’t kick the can down the road – we picked it up,” said Malloy, a former Stamford mayor who took office in January 2011.
Still, projections show a $40 million shortfall in the budget that operates through June 30. The new legislative session will craft a two-year budget to take effect July 1, with Malloy to introduce his proposed budget Feb. 6.
The governor on Wednesday also cited pension overhaul changes that he expects will save the state about $20 billion, shrinking the number of state agencies by more than 25%, and the recruitment of Jackson Laboratory and NBC Sports to Farmington and Stamford, respectively.
Malloy also pleaded for assistance from the federal government, which he criticized for inertia.
“While we’ve worked to manage our state’s finances, national inaction hangs like a dark cloud over our budget,” he said. “For many Connecticut families with someone working in our defense industry, Washington’s inability to address problems on a reasonable deadline is causing sleepless nights.”
One day earlier, Malloy told a Danbury Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting that he opposed highway tolls near border states. “I am not for border tolls, but that’s different than considering tolls in other circumstances,” as quoted in Danbury’s News-Times.
Connecticut borders New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Danbury sits about 10 miles from the New York State border along Interstate 84. “Other circumstances” leaves open possible tolling for Hartford, in the middle of the state.
Moody’s Investors Service, which downgraded Connecticut’s general obligation bonds last year, rates them Aa3, while Standard & Poor’s, Fitch Ratings and Kroll Bond Rating Agency assign AA ratings.