Looking down the road, Malloy says he sees a huge revival of the Connecticut economy – which has not created any net new jobs in the past two decades despite the efforts of the past three governors.
Not long after returning from a multi-day trip to Davos, Switzerland, Malloy said, "We need to continue to make sure the entire world knows Connecticut is open for business.''
Malloy touted the bipartisan special session last fall that led to a jobs package with near universal agreement from Republicans and Democrats. That package was passed on the same day that lawmakers clashed sharply over Malloy's plan to spend nearly $300 million for the Jackson Laboratory to create 300 jobs at the University of Connecticut Health Center campus in Farmington.
"I want everyone in this chamber to know that the work we did together is already paying off,'' Malloy told lawmakers regarding the bipartisan package. "Jobs are being created as we speak.''
The 2012 session opened Wednesday with a host of issues on tap, ranging from reforming public education to selling alcohol on Sundays.
The busy agenda, in an election year, will include debates over raising the minimum wage, allowing same-day voter registration and using red-light cameras to catch wayward motorists. Depending on the measure's prospects, lawmakers might also debate whether to abolish the death penalty in favor of life in prison without parole.
In a surprise to many lobbyists at the state Capitol, legalizing online gambling will not be an issue this year. The legislature's public safety committee will not be offering a bill on online gambling during the short session, and Malloy said it is highly unlikely that the issue will come up.
After a ruling by theU.S. Department of Justiceand some initially positive comments by Malloy, many insiders thought that the state would approve some form of Internet gambling this year. But the issue proved to be too complicated to resolve during a short session scheduled to conclude in 13 weeks.
McKinney said he likes Malloy's education reform plan, but is concerned about continued spending increases.
"I think the reform agenda is a good one. I think we need to set our priorities and reduce spending in other areas," McKinney said.
McKinney thinks Malloy's prediction of a state budget surplus by 2014 is "hopeful on a huge economic rebound, and I hope he's right, but we have not seen that economic rebound. … We just learned last week that last year was the worst year on record for housing sales in in Connecticut. That's a strong barometer for our economic recovery."
"And, again, we're continuing to increase spending above and beyond what our budget can sustain," McKinney said. "We know that spending more money on education does not produce better results. The governor has said that himself. It's how and where you spend the money and holding people accountable to spend it the right way. And on that issue we are in agreement with the governor, because we've been pushing for those [reforms] for years. But you can still look at your $20 billion budget, find savings of $120-plus million and replace that spending with better spending on education reform."
He added, "I think his entire education package is a good one. There are some issues to disagree with, but we're not going to get everything we want. We want to work with him in a bipartisan way like we did on the jobs package because this is maybe the single most important long-term issue for our state – getting every kid a great education. And right now it's failing too many kids."
House Speaker Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, said of Malloy's speech: "A lot of good stuff there. … A lot of good stuff there. Jobs and education go hand in hand. We need to revitalize our education and also create jobs. It's a perfect match. I think it speaks well for the future of our state."
Asked about Republicans' skepticism about increased spending amid negative economic news for the state, Donovan said, "What a difference a year makes in terms of a balanced budget. The governor says that we'll balance the budget, [and] the numbers I see, the budget will be balanced. I think it's time to say, hey, let's be aggressive about creating jobs, and again we all know we need to do something on education. So those are the two biggest things that I see from this speech – education and jobs. I think it's a winning combination."
Donovan, who supports public employee unions, was asked if he saw any problems selling tenure reform to teachers. "The teachers are saying they want to be part of the solution to this, too," Donovan said. "I think they're looking froward to the discussion. Getting everybody at the table in a positive way is a good thing."
Allowing Sunday Sales
The Sunday sale of alcohol will be debated once again in one of the most heavily lobbied issues at the Capitol. The difference this year is that Malloy not only wants alcohol to be sold on Sundays, but he also wants to allow package stores to remain open until 10 p.m. and bars until 2 a.m. seven days a week. Some consumers have complained about the inconvenience of traveling across the border to Massachusetts, Rhode Island or New York State if they want to buy beer or wine on Sunday.
"I'm trying to give the consumer a break here,'' Malloy said recently in an interview with The Courant's editorial board. "I'm trying to treat the consumers well. … It's proven itself everywhere else.''