Norwich — U.S. Sen.-elect Chris Murphy said Tuesday that he will work to exclude education, transportation and science funding from any federal budget cuts next year because he believes they are critical to reviving Connecticut’s lagging economy.
“These investments matter more here,” Murphy said in delivering a keynote speech at a breakfast meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut before about 150 people at the Holiday Inn.
Murphy praised Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for increasing investments in the biosciences, primarily in the Farmington area, saying that he believes the benefits eventually will spill over to eastern Connecticut, despite the “agitas” of some economic leaders in this region who believe more should be done to revive fortunes here as Pfizer Inc. reduces its presence in Groton. He said these “overdue investments” can only help Connecticut’s economy, which has failed to create any job growth over a two-decade period.
“We have generally been lacking a cohesive economic strategy in this state for about 20 years,” Murphy said.
Murphy said his policy agenda includes a push to see that the Central Corridor rail initiative linking southeastern Connecticut with Canada and points north moves forward.
“I think it is economic genius to recognize the importance of commuter rail,” he said.
But while Murphy favors holding the line on some federal budget cuts, he acknowledged the need to reduce defense spending even as he committed to protecting the Navy’s projected two-submarines-a-year production schedule that benefits Electric Boat.
Murphy, saying “we’re in the middle of a global recession,” acknowledged the need to reduce the federal debt by $3 trillion to put the country on track to “leapfrog the rest of the world in terms of the economy.” But Murphy said that, instead of across-the-board cuts, he would support targeted reductions that leave key economic drivers and investments in place.
“I see enormous economic rewards ahead if we do it right,” he said.
In addition, Murphy said he could see benefits from lowering corporate tax rates and simplifying the federal tax code, which might include reducing itemized deductions.
But Murphy said any reductions should be accompanied by policy changes that would ease the impact of the cuts. Among his ideas is to lessen dependence on foreign contractors by instituting a more aggressive buy-American campaign on the federal level.
“As we shrink the pie ... we have to increase the slice spent on American companies,” he said.
Murphy, who has been representing northwestern Connecticut as the 5th District U.S. congressman, introduced himself to business leaders as a die-hard Red Sox fan who has roots in the region. His great-grandfather, the ninth of 13 children, was born in Norwich, he said, and became a probate judge in the Windham area while also heading a construction company that built dozens of structures, primarily in eastern Connecticut.
“I feel like I’ve come home, in a way,” said Murphy, who lives in Cheshire.
Murphy promised to take a pragmatic approach to public-policy issues and to reach across the aisle to form relationships that will address key concerns, including immigration reform. He added that reducing business regulations will be part of his agenda in Washington.
“We can be a more business-friendly state,” he said. “That’s just a choice. It’s not part of the genetic code of the state.”