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Malloy Inherited, And Passes On, State Budget Challenges

Governor Dannel Malloy speaks at a ceremony for a new parking garage built at the State Office Building in Hartford in December 2018.
Frankie Graziano
Connecticut Public Radio
Governor Dannel Malloy speaks at a ceremony for a new parking garage built at the State Office Building in Hartford in December.

As the state prepares for a new governor to take office, one of outgoing Gov. Dannel Malloy’s ongoing challenges will become Ned Lamont’s problem: the state budget.

“When he came in, I believed, sincerely believed, that he could both stabilize state finances and overcome this legacy of debt, all with his shared sacrifice -- his first budget,” said Keith Phaneuf, the budget reporter for the Connecticut Mirror. “There was going to be a large tax increase. There was going to be a union concessions plan. He was going to try to freeze certain costs. And I think what he found is the problems were so much bigger than he thought.”

When Connecticut’s recovery from the economic recession was slower than anticipated, it became clear during Malloy’s first term that his plan would fall short, Phaneuf said.

“What he ended up doing was spending the rest of his term trying to disguise or mitigate that fact,” he said.

Central to the problem were the state’s required contributions to state employees’ and teachers’ pensions. And Phaneuf said Malloy did something no recent governor has – he paid those bills.

"Malloy not only paid the bill he inherited, but, for the most part, he did not leave a bill behind him,” Phaneuf said. “That will ultimately pay dividends in terms of schools, roads, health care, and everything that people care about in the future.

Phaneuf said Malloy will certainly be remembered for two large tax hikes and unless adjustments are made, state spending is currently on pace to exceed revenues by about $1.7 billion during Lamont’s first fiscal year.

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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