Legislators question Malloy’s tax pledge

With his promise last Thursday to keep tax rates at their current level, Gov. Dannel Malloy drew disparate reactions from state legislators — Democrats support Malloy’s tax plan while Republicans allege it is indicative of the governor’s future political ambition.

Malloy made his pledge during a speech at the University of Hartford Construction Institute’s 18th annual State of the State event on Oct. 11, where he discussed his plans for Connecticut’s economic development. During his address, Malloy promised not to raise taxes in 2013— a welcome assurance to Connecticut residents who saw the biggest tax hike in the state’s history last year. Members of the Connecticut General Assembly, however, are in conflict over the solidity of Malloy’s promise. Some legislators and political observers claim the Governor’s new fiscal pledge may be politically and economically unfeasible, in practice only serving his long-term aspirations to public office.

“I’ve come to the conclusion watching this governor fly all around the world — to Halifax, Beijing — it seems as if he has some sort of broader political motivation for himself,” said Gary Rose, chairman of the Department of Government and Politics at Sacred Heart University. “I talked to a state lawmaker not long ago who said on no uncertain terms this guy is already running for president.”

Republican State Senator Len Suzio echoed Rose’s explanation of Malloy’s intentions, noting “it’s well-known in Hartford that [Malloy] has ambitions to go down to Washington.”

Rose said that raising taxes now would be “political suicide” for the governor. Following Malloy’s massive tax hike last year, initiating any discussion of raising taxes would hurt his chances for re-election in 2014 or for election at the federal level, Rose added.

Suzio said he is skeptical of Malloy’s promise to keep tax rates stable. Two weeks before the governor made his pledge at the University of Hartford, he publicly stated that he hoped he would not have to raise taxes. Suzio added he did not know what changed over the past two weeks to make Malloy certain he will not need to increase taxes.

“I don’t really know how reliable his commitment is,” he said.

Suzio said that he thinks the governor will be open to raising taxes if Connecticut’s budget deficit — currently projected at $27 million for fiscal year 2013 — continues to grow. Republicans in the state senate share Suzio’s skepticism of Malloy’s commitment, he said.

State Democrats, however, do not believe that Malloy will go back on his word. Democratic State Senator Edward Meyer said Malloy will be able to raise enough government revenue through new policies for the upcoming year, such as a tax on Internet services. If the deficit runs larger than expected, Meyers said, Malloy will look to spending cuts rather than tax increases, adding that it would be surprising if members of either party try to raise taxes again after last year’s historic tax hike.

Malloy’s primary focus is on improving Connecticut’s economy, Meyer said.

“I think [considering federal office] is very premature. He’s got a job to do right here in Connecticut to restore the economy. I can’t imagine him contemplating a run for national office at this point,” Meyer said.

Malloy gave his State of the State address at the Hangar at the Pratt & Whitney Museum in East Hartford, Conn.

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