Malloy hears state government wish list

Hartford - The photo op came at the end of the 90-minute meeting. That's when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy hoisted the two massive white binders from the table top and headed out toward his office, cradling their 1,800 pages in his arms.

All those pages are the end result of a massive brainstorming session that began in the days after Malloy won the governor's race in November.

The administration's transition team broke into 12 working groups to examine various aspects of state policy and government structure - from transportation and information technology to education and economic development - and developed the recommendations finally presented to Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and their top-level staffs on Monday.

Malloy and Wyman sat side by side in the Old Appropriations room in the Capitol as the leaders of each policy group briefly presented the highlights of their findings, which read in some cases like a composite wish list of the past few decades of state government theory and practice.

Former state Rep. Cameron Staples, a Democrat from New Haven, spoke for education leaders when he called for the Education Cost Sharing grant - the single largest source of aid the state sends to towns and cities to run public schools - to be "revamped and reanalyzed."

Joseph J. McGee, the co-chairman of the transition team's policy committee, warned that Connecticut is "just not maintaining state assets, whether in transportation or infrastructure."

Malloy heard appeals to overhaul IT systems, from the state's official website to the communications systems of its agencies. The governor also heard an appeal to personally engage in the process of economic development, including luring and retaining employers.

"The clearest and most urgent recommendation that emerged from multiple working groups was the focus on job creation and the absolute necessity of gubernatorial leadership," McGee and co-chair Linda J. Kelly wrote in a summary report to Malloy.

Sprinkled through the findings were items of local interest to various regions and constituencies, including a directive to improve relations with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal governments and businesses, and a proposal to support efforts to expand the U.S. Army's aviation repair depot at Groton-New London airport.

What the reports would not provide Malloy, he acknowledged in a question-and-answer session with reporters, was more money with which to make some of the recommended reforms and investments. The goals were clear, Malloy said, but to get there, he and his staff will be forced to make a series of difficult calculations about where to cut and spend as they compose a new two-year budget.

Malloy noted one of the more surprising statistics cited by the committees: a finding by the legislature's Commission on Enhancing Agency Outcomes that the state government has one supervisor or manager for every six state workers.

That compares to one supervisor per 11-16 workers in the private sector, the report said, one for every 12 workers in the governments of other states.

"I didn't know until relatively recently … how out of whack we were relative to other states," Malloy said, "but I have to say I'm not shocked."

State government, he said, is "too top heavy, too top down."

But that does not mean potential changes will be done wholesale, with the type of axing of public-sector employment that some conservative lawmakers would prefer.

"I don't need any more experts in over-management," Malloy said. "I got enough of those. I don't need any experts in surplus employment. I got enough of those. Having said that, this is not necessarily a time that you want to push people out into a job market that doesn't exist. So it will be a balancing act."

The governor deflected some topics, for instance the perennially controversial suggestion of adding tolls to state highways to help pay for maintaining state infrastructure.

On that issue, the governor said he would only consider such an option if the revenue generated were dedicated "seven ways to Sunday" to transportation projects only, perhaps through a constitutional amendment. Either way, the budget proposal in February would not mention tolls, he said.

Malloy more eagerly grappled with the committee's plea for a governor who will be personally involved in economic development and job growth, drawing, without naming her, a contrast with his predecessor, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

"We've got to stop this idea that a governor should stand or sit or exist in some ivory tower," Malloy said. "This is a job. This is a job you should get your hands dirty with. This is a job that you come to work every day willing and able to embrace and love and work hard at."

Malloy will present his budget proposal to the legislature on Feb. 16.

t.mann@theday.com

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