2010 gubernatorial candidates Republican Tom Foley and Democrat Ned Lamont SOM ’80 did not go easy on Gov. Dannel Malloy’s fiscal strategy at an informal debate Monday night.
At the Yale Law School on Monday night, the two politicians debated the handling of the state’s current economic crisis and took questions from a crowd of about 100 students, faculty and community residents. Echoing themes from the campaign trail, residents expressed concerns that the mayor’s state fiscal strategy was unfair to citizens and that the city in general is headed in the wrong direction.
“Connecticut has been in a recession before America was in a recession, and we are going to be in it a lot longer,” said Lamont.
Malloy presented his $19.7 billion budget plan for fiscal year 2012 in February, which called for increased taxes and concessions from state employees in an effort to close a $3.2 billion deficit. On Monday night, several residents expressed opinions that the proposal was a burden.
Foley agreed that the budget plan was burdensome on taxpayers, using the 20.9 percent increase in personal income tax and a 17.8 percent increase in sales tax as examples.
“The tax payers have [to do] all the heavy lifting,” he said.
Lamont said he agreed with Foley and that one of his concerns with the budget is that it does not allocate enough funding to non-profit organizations. He added that additional funding should be distributed to the current $7 billion given to health care or to the money spent on state prisons and corrections. But he said the budget realistically accounts for the economic crisis.
“Whatever you might think of Malloy’s budget, it is relatively balanced, relatively honest and gives some sense of predictability,” Lamont said.
Despite the event’s initial premise to discuss the budget, the debate turned toward social concerns during the question and answer period.
Lamont said that he was supportive of legislation similar to the DREAM Act that would allow illegal immigrants to continue their education in the country. However, Lamont also said that losing students educated in Connecticut to other states was a problem. At one point, he surveyed the audience and discovered that although a quarter of the room was from the Law School, only five students intended to take the Connecticut bar.
“It just goes to show that [the low retention of students] is the problem facing the state of Connecticut, our best and our brightest are educated here in Connecticut and then think about leaving,” Lamont said.
John Dankosky, the news director for WNPR and moderator for the evening, said he thought the candidates were very respectful to Malloy, adding that these events were a good way of gauging how the public feels about state issues.
“These sort of things [events] are valuable for people because it gives you a better sense of what people really feel policy-wise which sometimes you don’t get on the campaign,” said Dankosky.
The event was hosted by a consortium of Yale political groups: The American Constitution Society, Federalist Society, Yale Law Democrats, Yale Law Republicans, Yale College Democrats and Yale College Republicans.