By JEN CARDINES
HARTFORD— During the joint convention on opening day of the Connecticut General Assembly (CGA), Governor Dannel Malloy gave his 2017 State of the State address. The 2017-2019 legislative term is the beginning of the biennial budget cycle and with Connecticut’s $1.5 billion deficit causing a fiscal challenge, Malloy said that the legislature must work to reduce spending in all areas of the budget.
He outlined three major areas that he wants to see addressed during the new legislative session: Continued cost savings and efficiencies in state government, changes that will make state pensions and benefits more affordable, and the creation of a fair and equitable system for town aid.
“Saving money isn’t just about cutting line-items or reducing headcount,” the governor said about state government efficiencies. “Agencies will continue to modernize systems, reduce waste, and increase productivity in order to cut costs as much as possible before impacting services or the valuable employees who provide them.”
Malloy told the crowded room that the pension systems in place caused the current generation to pay for Connecticut’s past mistakes. “The stark reality is that, after 80 years, the state has set aside only one-third of the money necessary to responsibly fund its obligations.”
The governor then concentrated on how the State distributes aid to towns, focusing primarily on education. He said that 81 percent of the money given to municipalities is for educational funding, and that Connecticut isn’t spending the funds in the best way possible.
“Connecticut needs a way to calculate educational aid – one that guarantees equal access to a quality education regardless of zip code,” he said. “Our state constitution guarantees it, and our moral compass demands it.”
While his speech highlighted working together this season and approaching the budget “in a spirit of authentic, bipartisan collaboration,” it was clear that he was preaching to a divided room. Grand applause was found on the Democratic side of the room far more than the Republican side. At one point in the address, the Democratic caucus gave a standing ovation for a comment that Malloy made, but it was hard to find even a clap from the other side of the aisle.
Malloy’s address championed predictability and stability as a crucial component for many state facets during this season. He promised a fairer distribution of the limited state funds.
In the wake of November’s presidential election, he stated that more Americans than ever feel disconnected from their government. “I offer to you that a greater degree of predictability in government – in all government at all levels – will help reengage and reinvigorate our democracy,” he said.
He continued to say that everyone is welcome in Connecticut, no matter how long ago their family settled here. “As the people of Connecticut navigate a challenging national landscape, we will continue to ensure that every state resident is treated with dignity and respect.”