Malloy gets an earful at town hall meeting in New London

New London - Some 400 people flowed into the gymnasium of the Jennings School Wednesday night to tell Gov. Dannel P. Malloy what they thought of his proposed budget.

Oh, yes, and his taxes.

But it seemed as if they'd come with almost 400 different angles on the subject.

There was the New London car wash owner concerned about the proposed new taxes on his business, the contingent from Montville and surrounding towns holding up the "NO SEX OFFENDERS" signs, the woman handing out fliers titled "Fatherhood Needs To Be Saved!!!"

There were the state employee union members calling themselves The Campaign for the Middle Class, the guy from the Thomas G. Faria Corp. wanting to know why the state employees had it so good, and, of course, the angry taxpayer.

That would be Jen Ezzel of Lisbon, who almost seethed as she said, "Gas prices are going up, clothing prices are going up, food prices are going up. The only thing that's not going up is our disposable income. ... I understand you need to grab money everywhere, but you know what? We don't have any more money to give you. We're done."

Her words were met with shouts and applause.

Undaunted, Malloy, leaning comfortably on the podium and smiling, answered that he was looking for and open to good ideas, a theme he returned to throughout the night.

After he laid out the reason he had to produce the budget he did (to try to patch a $3.3 billion hole in the budget his predecessor handed him), Malloy made it local.

"New London's ... share of that deficit was $6.5 million. Your average cost for a teacher and benefits is something approaching $80,000. You would have lost a tremendous number of teachers in New London if we did not fill that hole, and we do," he said.

That was on the spending side. Then he turned to taxes.

"Since I'm in New London, let me break it down for you. The median income in New London is $42,688. That would represent additional income tax, on average of $477 per year, that's $9.17 per week, it's $1.31 per day, and I want to acknowledge that up front," Malloy said.

"There's also some sales tax changes. That would represent $37 a year. It would represent 71 cents per week. It would represent 10 cents per day."

After a tight eight-minute speech, Malloy was ready to take on any question. And by the time he took the podium at 7 p.m., the line waiting at the microphone stretched to the back of the room.

Such as from the "NO SEX OFFENDERS" folks.

"We do not want a sex-offender facility in Montville or New London County," said Jim Andriote of Montville.

"What's more," said Dana McFee, a town councilor in Montville, "it's gonna cost four million dollars. ... Save the four million and pull the plug on it."

Malloy pointed out, as he did on several occasions throughout the night, that the problem predated him. But, he said, he would review it.

Noah Levine, owner of Rapid Carwash on Coleman Street, had the honor to be first in line to ask a question and wanted to know how he was supposed to deal with the governor's proposal to remove the sales tax exemption on car washes.

"What are my options?" Malloy replied. "I have a $3.3 billion deficit, so what I'm trying to do, and I understand that this is a burden ... we're trying to broaden the base so that we can maintain services."

There were the union members, too.

"We think the wealthy citizens of Connecticut should pay their fair share towards the deficit and we know that union members have paid their fair share already," said Scott Soares of Newington, a member of AFSCME Council 4.

And on the other side, there was the small manufacturer.

John Fearns, who is an engineering manager at Faria Corp. in Montville, told the governor that business had been hard there, with layoffs and "furlough days that expressed in months, not days."

"So I'm asking you to look me in the eye, when you ask to raise high taxes for a business model that is unsustainable, one that offers a job for life, paid pension, a Cadillac health plan for as long as you live, and I'm asking you to tell me how you can say that's fair for me," Fearns said.

Malloy fired right back: "The guy who entered into a 20-year deal on benefits was not me; it was the governor in 1997 (John G. Rowland). Now I've got to deal with the situation that I have."

It was a night of a lot of people with a lot of concerns. They were always polite, but always concerned.

And yet, throughout the night, Malloy managed to keep it light.

"Honestly, I am looking for good ideas with respect to cut and save money," he said. "And if you have some ... please forward them to my office so I can take credit for them."


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