Dannel Malloy was sworn in Wednesday as Connecticut’s first Democratic governor in 20 years.
And while it was a day of celebration — with a parade, formal ceremonies, an address to the legislature, and an evening ball — Malloy says he’s keenly aware of the challenge ahead. Together, he and the Democratically-controlled state legislature face an estimated $3.5 billion budget shortfall next year.
That’s about 20 percent of the state’s entire budget.
“I…hope you will join me in a movement to once and for all resolve our out-of-control budget crisis, and retire gimmicks and one-time solutions,” Malloy said in his address to the state legislature. “We must instead adopt a responsible tell-it-like-it-is approach to balancing and managing our budget, and treat it just like any company treats a budget.”
To that end, in his first act as governor, Malloy signed executive orders revamping how the state does its books, keeping it in line with the same standard used by other states and businesses across the country.
“We will begin to move toward honest budgeting and fiscal responsibility,” he said in a press release.
When speaking of the budget, Malloy told residents to expect some shared sacrifice — which will certainly include budget cuts and could well include tax increases. But his speech Wednesday was short on detail, which he’s likely saving for his budget address in February.
“We clearly face big problems, and in my estimation big problems call for a big table,” he told the legislature.
Malloy comes to the office of governor after Republican M. Jodi Rell, the former state legislator turned lieutenant governor who wound up serving as the state’s chief executive almost by accident — her predecessor John Rowland resigned his office in a corruption scandal.
Malloy referenced the circumstances that first brought Rell to the governor’s office Wednesday, praising her and telling the legislature that she “stepped into the role of Governor at a time when our state was in a different kind of crisis, a crisis of confidence in the character and intentions of its leadership.”
Rell ended up running for reelection four years ago and winning. But while Malloy credits her with restoring confidence in state government, some blame her — and legislative Democrats — for nearly driving the state’s budget off a cliff. Malloy calls it the “crossroads of crisis and opportunity.”
Malloy and his staff say they’ll now continue the process of assembling his administration and preparing his upcoming budget.
“I will be meeting with the Legislature, labor leaders, economic advisors, private industry and the not-for-profit sector so that we have a well-rounded perspective on the best solutions to our problems,” he said. “And then I will begin working with the Legislature to adopt the budget.”