CT News Junkie | OP-ED | A Tale of Two Speeches: Comparing Gov. Malloy in 2011 and 2015

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OP-ED | A Tale of Two Speeches: Comparing Gov. Malloy in 2011 and 2015

by | Jan 9, 2015 12:00pm
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Posted to: Election 2010, Election 2014, Opinion, State Budget, Taxes, Transportation

Jessica Hill/AP pool photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy getting sworn into a second term this week


What a difference four years makes.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy kicked off his second term in office on Wednesday, and if the speeches he gave at his inauguration and later to the General Assembly are any indication, this term is going to be more subdued and less ambitious than the last one.

The speeches themselves are fairly different in form, structure, content, and intent. The 2015 speech is shorter, more concise, and far less given to rhetorical flights of fancy than Malloy’s first State of the State in 2011.  Let’s compare the emotional hooks of each speech. First, from 2011:

“I can sense it. It is our time. Never give up, and the tide will turn. It’s not just the story of my life. It’s the story of Connecticut.”

And now 2015:

“How do we honor our remarkable history and tradition? How do we fulfill our promise for a brighter tomorrow? How do we decide what kind of Connecticut we’re going to leave to our children?”

There’s a difference, there — not just in the less urgent tone, but in the objective. The point of 2011’s speech was to try and grapple with the very present and immediate crisis of economic recession and a huge budgetary shortfall. In 2015, the speech is far more about legacy — instead of preserving what we have, Malloy focused on what he wants to build for the future.

What Malloy proposed in 2011 was nothing less than a governing philosophy, a way out of the crisis that was different than the austerity other states were insisting upon — the idea of “shared sacrifice.” He didn’t elaborate much in his initial speech to the legislature — that came in his budget address in February, 2011 — but he did lay the groundwork for his vision.

Now, though, he has a focused vision and concrete proposals: Improve transportation. Widen I-95. More railway stations. A transportation “lockbox” that can’t be raided. This is the speech of a governor who is finally not staring down into the abyss of a crisis.

But in a lot of ways Malloy’s job is harder now than it was in 2011. He didn’t come into office with much political capital or clout, but he didn’t have much baggage and there is something about a crisis that makes lawmakers more open to making difficult decisions. But Connecticut right now is slowly emerging from that crisis, and because money is still tight and another deficit looms, lawmakers are going to be a lot more cautious.

Malloy’s 2015 speech reflected that caution. In it, he didn’t try to appeal to them emotionally, but almost like an entrepreneur trying to get someone to invest in his business.

We know that transportation and economic growth are bound together. States that make long-term investments in their infrastructure can have vibrant economies for generations. States that don’t make those investments will struggle. It’s that simple.

So we should do it because the economy will benefit, and it’ll hurt us in the long run if we don’t. We shouldn’t do it because it’s necessarily right or part of a bigger vision, but because it’ll pay off in the end.

Gone are the literary quotes, the Twain references, and the history lessons. The personal stories that infused his first state of the state are nowhere to be found. Instead, Malloy is all business here, and his argument is almost purely economic.

So what about the content? The 2011 speech didn’t have much in the way of real proposals to attack that deficit, but the 2015 speech does contain a number of actual transportation ideas. The most talked-about proposal will likely be this:

And we should include a covenant with bond holders and all people of Connecticut to ensure that money set aside for transportation projects is only used for that purpose.

Like some sort of Special Transportation Fund, you mean? We have one. You guys raid it all the time. Republican leaders have already noted that the only way that money gets protected is if it’s a constitutional amendment. So, let’s see if the legislature is really serious. Pass an amendment creating an untouchable transportation fund by more than 75 percent of the vote in both chambers, and send it to the voters in 2016.

But somehow this speech, which was largely free of the fire and resolve of Malloy’s earlier efforts, doesn’t give me much confidence that it will happen.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(4) Archived Comments

posted by: shinningstars122 | January 11, 2015  8:45am

shinningstars122

It will be interesting to say the least. Malloy is in a difficult position, even as our state economic conditions have gradually improved, there is still plenty of work to be done.

Honestly it comes down to the Legislature and from reading the variety of tepid and partisan knee jerks reactions to this speech, as well as his reelection, I have to believe both parties will continue the path of partisan dysfunction.

With the national shift playing out in Congress the GOP mantra now is “we will take over everything…eventually” so there is no motivation for the new CT GOP leadership to help Connecticut succeed.

As for the Democrats it is time to step up, with or without Republicans help, and be forthright as well as pragmatic in dealing with the state’s fiscal problems.

I think many state residents agree that a “transportation lock box” must be created and with lowered gas prices it is much easier to do it now.

The sad reality is that the majority of posters on this site want Malloy and the Democrats to fail…miserably.

That is truly the state of the state as partisan decide and a venomous electorate, who honestly have no idea how to fix our state problems except by extolling the claims of slashing spending and taxes, will rule 2015 and beyond.

I do not envy our Governor…but if he truly wants a legacy he will have to get the Legislature to act in ways we have not seen in a long time, if ever.

posted by: whatsprogressiveaboutprogressives? | January 11, 2015  11:32am

You know faded star, did you actually re-read the content of your post before hitting the submit button? Sometimes I think some of your posts are submitted as bait or trolling in order to get people to respond.
That aside, have you checked the political makeup of our general assembly and governors office lately? There’s no need for partisianship or reaching across the aisles garbage. It simply isn’t going to happen with one party socialist rule. Period. Your first sentence in the third paragraph, categorizing the GOP that way is exactly what has been coming out of 1600 Penn. Ave. for the last 6 years and our governors for the last four.
Democrats time to step up with or without the GOP? You’re absolutely crazy.
The modern day dem has no interest in working with repubs. Nationally, last fall was a statement against the bully in the White House and all of his socialist minions. I’m convinced nothing will get done the next two years because Obama is going to make sure there is plenty of ink in his veto pen.

posted by: art vandelay | January 11, 2015  11:36am

art vandelay

@Shiningstars122,
I’d very much like to see the Democrats become “Pragmatic” about the 31.6 million dollar deficit.
I’d also like to see Democrats tackle the impending billion dollar deficit without raising taxes, or cutting one of their “precious” social programs.  Democrats have to learn (I doubt if they ever will) that the state has to be run like a business.  If you don’t have the money, you don’t spend it.

A “Transportation Lock Box”  will go the way of the “Suggestion Box”. Remember that?  Yes the Democrats will increase the gas/gross receipts tax, and implement tolls.  They’ll get support from opposing Democrats and some Republicans with the promise of a future Constitutional Amendment which will NEVER materialize. Within 6 months the dedicated funds will quietly be transferred into the general.  It happened with the lottery, the gas tax increase after Mianus River and Stratford Toll Disasters.  Democrats disregarded the spending cap instituted after the Income Tax.  Additional funds generated by these new taxes will NEVER be “Lock Boxed”.

I don’t envy the Governor either.  He needs to come to the realization that his progressive liberal Keynesian economic policies have not worked, nor ever will.  Until Malloy realizes that he needs to adopt the policies of Scott Walker.  If not Connecticut will never prosper, it will only become the next Detroit!

posted by: Greg | January 11, 2015  11:48am

SS:  You start your comment with a statement about “both parties will continue the path of partisan dysfunction”, presumably referring to the state legislature. 

You then state:  “As for the Democrats it is time to step up, with or without Republicans help, and be forthright as well as pragmatic in dealing with the state’s fiscal problems.”

Perhaps I’m wrong, but i do not recall any sort of partisan dysfunction in the legislature given the constant, decades-long majority—at times, supermajority—of Democrats dominating the Dome.  The Democratic agenda seems to have progressed just fine, especially over the last four years despite any objection from the CTGOP.  The math of vote-getting along party lines under the Dome makes any republican in the legislature nothing more than a talking head…surely you don’t presume to draw a parallel between Hartford and the obstructionist GOP in DC?

As I and many others see it, the Democrats own this state, they own the legislature, and they own the governor’s mansion for the past and future four years.  They own the constitutional offices, they own the cities.  No longer can Malloy or anyone else blame Rowland or Rell for the now looming deficit that Malloy claimed didn’t exist during his campaign just a few months ago.  They also own the tomfoolery in and out of the transportation fund. They can’t shirk their responsibility for the problems that face us now and blame the Koch Brothers boogeyman you and your ilk love to mention at every turn. 

The Democrats own it all. Period. Nobody can argue otherwise.

The GOP has been relegated to being the hecklers in the back of the room as Malloy, Looney, Beth Bye, et al now run this state with reckless abandon, now facing some very tough decisions they conveniently didn’t want to admit existed last fall.

We hope they all fail because we believe their policies are unsustainable, harmful, and absurd.  We hope they fail because they have shown in the past to be the exact opposite of “forthright as well as pragmatic in dealing with the state’s fiscal problems” and nobody believes that behavior will change. 

Closed door, smoke-filled back room deals will be made out of view of the public, little gems of legislation will be slipped into budget implementers with nobody conveniently knowing where that language came from or who put it in the bill, votes on critical legislation will be held at 2AM with notice of 30 minutes so nobody can possibly read through the text of the bill.  Maybe something will be e-cert’ed again without an actual emergency, you never know with this bunch. 

Let the games begin!