By SUSAN HAIGH
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican challenger Tom Foley may disagree about the direction of Connecticut’s economy, but they showed some signs of similarity Tuesday, agreeing the state does not need more casinos, legalized marijuana or higher taxes.
Each also agreed the state likely wouldn’t save money by moving new state employees into a 401(k)-type retirement plan rather than a pension.
Oh, and both candidates acknowledged they’ve smoked marijuana.
Tuesday’s debate, held at St. Joseph’s University in West Hartford, was the first to be aired live on TV. The hour-long event was sponsored by WFSB-TV. Both men, who are in a rematch following 2010’s close election, are scheduled to appear in several more debates before Election Day, including one on Thursday at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.
Despite agreement on a handful of issues, both men clashed when it came to the key issue of the campaign _ jobs and the economy. While both said higher taxes would not be needed to address a projected $2.8 billion deficit, Foley questioned the sincerity of Malloy’s promise given his decision to raise taxes in 2011 and the level of state spending during his administration.
“There’s no way you can keep that going without raising taxes, which undoubtedly must be your plan,” Foley said.
But Malloy said he doesn’t believe there will be a deficit, claiming the projection from the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis is based on higher spending assumptions. Malloy contends he has made progress toward fixing Connecticut’s budget woes. And he credits his plan back in 2010 to address the budget deficit problems with a combination of higher taxes, spending cuts and labor concessions. He said Foley’s proposals back in 2010 to fix the budget deficit would have led to a loss of an additional 36,000 jobs.
“We went down a different road, and I’m proud of that record,” Malloy said. “We have a long way to go in our state, but we are making progress.”
Polling has shown that many voters are unhappy about the state’s economy, jobs and taxes _ issues Foley repeatedly pounced on during Tuesday’s debate. Foley pointed out how many everyday voters he speaks to feel as though they’re under “the big squeeze” because they “have less and less money to purchase the things they need for their families and themselves.”
But Democrats have questioned whether Foley can understand the concerns of low- and middle-class voters, considering the fact he is a multimillionaire businessman. Malloy brought up how Foley’s recent tax returns, released to reporters last week, showed he did not pay state and federal income taxes for two out of the three years of returns he provided.
Foley reported slightly more than $1 million in adjusted gross income for the 2010 tax year. But that dropped to negative $65,705 in 2011 and rose to $20,462 in 2012. Summaries of his 2013 returns have not been made available because he asked for an extension. The returns show Foley’s income was essentially canceled out during those two years due to business losses and alimony payments. Foley pointed out that Malloy ultimately earned more money than he did.
When both candidates were asked if there was a tax that should be raised, Foley said no. Malloy quipped: “the ones that he pays.”