Gov. Malloy deserves a second term

It would be tempting for voters still smarting from the big tax increases that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy pushed through the legislature to send the Democrat packing in retaliation. This newspaper complained long and loudly that the governor depended too much on tax hikes and not enough on spending cuts to rebalance the budget.

However, some perspective is in order. No Connecticut governor, and perhaps few governors anywhere, ever faced the fiscal calamity that confronted Gov. Malloy after his 2010 election. The $3.5 billion black hole was the largest deficit in proportion to the budget in the country. He had to fix it while the state was still trying to recover from the job and tax revenue losses caused by the Great Recession.

While Gov. Malloy could have demanded deeper labor concessions and sought greater savings, the fact is he did largely address the deficit disaster. Unlike many other states, he and the Democratic-controlled legislature did so without cutting aid to towns and cities. Shifting the problem to municipalities might have made political sense - avoiding or reducing the need for state income and sales tax increases - but it would have meant big property tax hikes at the local level.

For a place like New London, that would have been a calamity.

On the economic front, this administration pursued an aggressive economic incentive program - the First Five - to provide millions of dollars in loans and grants to keep large businesses here or attract new ones. With bipartisan support, the Business Express Program provided grants and loans to small businesses at a time when banks were reluctant to lend.

There was fault to find with the execution of this effort. Giving away millions to move a hedge fund company from one Connecticut city to another (a plan thankfully never carried out) did not make sense. But faced with the need to jump start Connecticut's economy, chances had to be taken, and Gov. Malloy has provided a drive and direction sorely lacking in the prior administration.

The state is making progress, with the best month for hiring in 20 years reported in September - 11,500 new jobs in one month. Over the year, employers added 26,000 jobs, the state Department of Labor reported. The unemployment rate is at 6.4 percent, the lowest since before the recession. If Connecticut can grow 11,400 more jobs, it will finally return to pre-recession job levels.

Gov. Malloy deserves the chance to build upon the policies he set in motion in a first term and demonstrate that he can sustain the recovery, while maintaining state services without further tax increases. Reversing course yet again, with the election of a new governor with a far different philosophy, risks the kind of policy inconsistency and unpredictability that makes business and industry uneasy.

Yes, four years ago in this space we endorsed the man Gov. Malloy faces for a second straight election, Republican Tom Foley. Much has changed. While Connecticut still faces deficit projections, they are not nearly on the scale seen in 2010. Back then, we calculated a tough-minded fiscally conservative governor such as Mr. Foley, with push back from a Democratic legislature, held the best opportunity for making the spending cuts necessary, tempered by a legislature intent on protecting necessary services.

This time Mr. Foley is trying to unseat an incumbent. In doing so, he needs to lay out a plan as to how his governing would be different and better. He has not done so, instead sticking with bumper sticker generalities. Unlike 2010, when Mr. Foley appeared ready to take a hard line concerning spending and state employee pay and benefit packages, this time he assured the unions they have nothing to fear.

It is hard to envision where a Foley administration would take Connecticut.

The Malloy administration has paid attention to southeastern Connecticut, often not the case in past administrations. Education reform policies are showing progress in New London and Norwich, with the magnet schools' plan in New London particularly exciting.

Gov. Malloy has been a partner in the cleanup of Preston Riverwalk - formerly Norwich Hospital - most recently with a $5 million grant that could finally lead to development there. The state has committed $4.4 million to renovate a large unused Pfizer building for use by the bioscience network, Connecticut United for Research Excellence. The governor has pledged $20 million to help make a National Coast Guard Museum in New London a reality.

This governor has shown strong leadership and provided the reassurance he was in control through a series of disasters, natural and man-made, that the state confronted during his first term.

After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Gov. Malloy took on the gun lobby, pushing for and signing a gun law that placed sensible restrictions on semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, while toughening background checks. Those owning weapons banned under the new law were allowed to keep them, but had to register them, a reasonable step.

Gov. Malloy has largely made quality appointments in picking the people to lead state agencies. While Republicans complain about too much regulation, the facts are that in many instances regulatory speed and efficiency have improved, particularly in environmental regulation.

It has been disappointing to see Gov. Malloy and the Democratic Party use the federal election rules to circumvent Connecticut's laws meant to keep money from influence peddlers out of state campaigns. The next legislature must do what it can to shore up the state's anti-corruption protections.

It also appeared Gov. Malloy was playing politics with his recent election-season announcement to convert the former Seaside facility in Waterford to a state park, without any study of the idea.

However, if the standard were perfection, no one would win an endorsement. Gov. Malloy has done well enough to deserve this one.

The Day endorses Dannel P. Malloy in the race for governor.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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