STAMFORD, Conn. -- Despite joking that he might have come for a public stoning after a contentious budget attracted wide criticism for its tax increases, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vigorously defended his leadership Wednesday during a visit to a business group in Stamford.
"The reality is that we have lower taxes than New York State," Malloy said. "We have lower effective taxes on corporate levels than any other state other than North Carolina."
Malloy made his comments at The Business Council of Fairfield County's Annual General Meeting held at the Sheraton Stamford Hotel.
The governor has come under attack for tax hikes in the $40 billion state budget that dismayed business leaders and led to fears of companies leaving the state. However, Malloy said that spending is increasing at a lower rate than it did under three previous administrations.
His administration has tackled big problems, Malloy said, pointing to his work to improve the state's transportation system. The highways, roads and mass transit need to dramatically improve in order to strengthen the state's economy, he said. He noted that this will also happen on Interstate 95, which cuts across Fairfield County and is frequently jammed with traffic.
“We will widen I-95, not just in a section, but in its entirety,” Malloy said.
The state is also moving toward putting fewer people in jail, he said. It is a large cost to the state and a question of fairness to have so many people incarcerated who, he said, should not be locked up.
"We are incarcerating too many people for too long for the wrong reasons," Malloy said, pointing to hundreds of people in jail for possession of drugs. He said it doesn't make any sense to keep someone in jail for simple possession when it isn't connected to other crimes.
More should be done to help people with their mental health and drug issues rather than relying on the prison system to deal with those problems, the governor said.
"We should be more invested, in my opinion, in permanent reformation than permanent punishment," Malloy said.
He took a number of questions from the audience, including one from Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling about Florida Gov. Rick Scott's visit to Connecticut where he criticized the state's tax policies and tried to lure state companies to his state.
Malloy said he was out of state when Scott, a Republican, came to Norwalk. He also said Scott has declined to debate him.
"I'm sure he didn't tell them he has a much higher homicide rate or a crime rate. I'm sure he didn't tell them that their public schools are a shambles," Malloy said of Scott's visit with Fairfield County business leaders. "I'm sure he didn't tell them he has refused to extend Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of people and is on the verge therefore of causing a calamity in his hospital system that will cost the state millions if not billions of dollars. I'm sure he didn't tell them that.
"This is a guy who doesn't want to debate me on TV. He picked a day I was out of state to be here. I'm sure he didn't tell anyone that, either."
Although he didn't name him, Malloy also took a swipe at Wisconsin's cost-cutting Gov. Scott Walker, who is also considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination. Malloy said education cuts will see people moving from the University of Wisconsin to other states, including Connecticut.
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