Gov. Dannel Malloy and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Tom Foley got personal in their second debate, taking shots at each other’s policies and transgressions.
The race is a toss-up, with a Quinnipiac poll released after last week’s debate showing the two tied.
The debate, which aired Oct. 2 on FoxCT, focused in part on the candidates’ economic, tax and gun-control policies. The competitors hurled personal attacks at one another throughout, with each candidate outright calling the other a “liar.”
Starting with Connecticut’s sluggish economic growth — just 1 percent over the past three years — Malloy said that despite the private sector adding 60,000 jobs since he took office “it wasn’t enough” but his administration was making progress. He lauded the work of the Small Business Express Program, which he says has given 1,200 entrepreneurs a “tool kit” to get their businesses off of the ground.
“That tool set is part of an overall tool set to make sure that we are adding to our economy,” Malloy said. “There are other incentives that we’ve applied and we are very proud of those as well.”
He mentioned investments the state has made into the University of Connecticut and the technology and biosciences sectors as examples of those “other incentives” to help create jobs.
In his rebuttal, Foley said that the figures purported by the incumbent were “Malloy Math” – “some are true, but most aren’t,” he quipped.
Foley blames Malloy’s record $1.8 billion tax increase last year for the state’s stagnant growth and said that state spending has caused public sector job growth to shrink. Malloy says he “is not happy” that he had to raise taxes but was forced to do so in order for Connecticut to pay its long-term obligations.
“When you inherit the state with the largest per capita deficit in the nation somebody has to lead,” he said.
According to Foley, the largest per capita deficit is not the only thing Malloy inherited from ex-Gov. John Rowland, claiming that 25,000 of those 60,000 jobs he takes credit for were also the work of his GOP predecessor.
“You only created, if your numbers are right, 35,000 jobs,” Foley asserted. “… Are you aware we lost 3,600 jobs in August alone?”
Foley says the governor’s spending, which includes business incentive programs that do not create jobs, “is too fast,” having risen 4.5 percent every year since his election. He promised to hold spending flat for two years while not reducing the public sector workforce.
His plan to reduce spending includes methods to reduce the expense of the delivery of healthcare services, which he says would “rapidly increase” revenues in the state. He says he, unlike his opponent, has the “business experience” to better run the state’s programs.
Malloy jumped on Foley’s business record, claiming he has run several businesses into bankruptcy while Malloy turned Stamford into a city “built for the long haul,” much like he is doing for the whole state as governor. Foley said that city was built by Malloy raising taxes seven times.
“The thing that bothers me most about Gov. Malloy’s term as mayor in Stamford is that Stamford was the largest city in Connecticut with the largest achievement gap and he did nothing about it,” Foley said. “He was also investigated for corruption while he was mayor of Stamford.”
Instead of defending himself against Foley’s accusations, Malloy brought up Foley’s support for the recently convicted former Gov. Rowland, found guilty of colluding with state contactors while in office.
Malloy says Rowland left him in no position to make promises about reducing taxes and that his predecessor failed to implement tough policies to drive the state out of debt, and that put the responsibility on Malloy’s administration.
“When I became governor the [budget] shortfall was 18 percent,” Malloy said. “If we had done the things my opponent suggested [in 2010], and is apparently suggesting now in your hometown, you would have lost teachers, para-professionals, administrators in your school system … police officers.”
Foley said one of the “biggest annoyances” for Connecticut citizens, aside from Malloy’s tax increases, is the state’s transportation system. Both candidates agreed that commute and travel times in the state are abysmal and the quality of the public transportation system is subpar.
Malloy said that roads, bridges and public transportation are among his “long-term” projects and that he has increased investments into public transportation projects and infrastructure.
“You’re all driving around Connecticut,” Foley said, addressing the audience. “… Where has all the money gone?”
Foley noted that the Democrat has used $40 million from the special transportation budget for non-transportation related costs. He said he would consider tolls in the state to raise money in lieu of raising taxes.
Foley also remained firm on his pledge to repeal Common Core for schools that did not – and do not – need them.
“I think this governor made a tremendous mistake,” he said. “I don’t believe we should mandate Common Core throughout the state and I won’t do it when I am governor.”
Malloy said he would continue to implement the education mandates across the state but promised to make that process “as easy as possible,” adding he has reached out to the federal government to reduce the number of tests for high school juniors.
“[Foley] wants to give failing grades to schools. He wants to take money away from schools that are poor performing and give it to other schools in that district,” Malloy said. “He talks about allowing people to go to those schools when I don’t know of a single high-performing school … that isn’t already filled.”
He said Foley’s plan “would be a disaster” for underprivileged schools.
Foley explained his plan does include an “A through F grading system” to help parents better understand how the school their children attends performs, allowing them to make an informed decision as to whether they want to send their child to a different school in the district. He pointed to Massachusetts’ implementation of the grading system, bettering the overall performance of schools in that state. Foley said programs in which “the money follows the child” permit high-performing schools to take on more students.
Malloy says that his programs have resulted in urban graduation rate increases over 10 percent without any closures.
Independent candidate Joe Visconti has not been featured alongside the two major-party candidates at the debates.
Foley lost to Malloy in the 2010 governor’s race by fewer than 7,000 votes.