Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy discussed state politics and recently passed bills for paid sick leave and the decriminalization of marijuana.
As New York inches closer to adopting gay marriage, one wonders what it was like in Connecticut after a court decision legalized same sex marriage in Connecticut. Any instances of gay-bashing, or backlash from certain conservative or religious communities? What about the bureaucracy: did it have difficulty adapting? Dan Malloy's answer on all points: flat-out no. "And why would there be?" he asked.
Historically, two people get married. We're not changing history. We might be changing the sex of individuals or the concept that they're both of the same sex, but we're not changing anything. A registration is a registration is a registration.
Governor Malloy's approval rating might be at a paltry 38 percent, but one proposal passed during the legislative session enjoys an approval margin of 3-1: granting paid sick leave to workers in Connecticut, making it the first state in the nation to do so. The public may love it, but small business owners, particularly restaurants, complain the five paid sick days a year for every employee would take a big bite out of profits.
Malloy said that he understands concerns about extending employee benefits and slowing the economic recovery. But he's heard all this before.
Those kinds of things have been said every time we've made change in the nation. When we stopped children from being able to work, we were going to end the industrial revolution. When we went to the minimum wage, we were going to end the industrial revolution; when we increased the minimum wage, or required Social Security contributions. That argument has been made time and time and time again and yet still, here we are.
Brian Lehrer pointed out that between New York, New Jersey and Connecticut—three states facing huge budget problems—Malloy's state was the only one to raise taxes. Connecticut also isn't considering a property tax cap, which has become a priority for New York and New Jersey. Why the different tack? Malloy said it was simple: different problems.
We were in a bigger hole. The deficit represents 18 percent of our revenue; New York's is less than nine percent, so we had a different situation. Secondly, and related to that, is that no early work had been done to address these problems in Connecticut, when in fact early work had been done both in New Jersey and New York.
I also stated quite clearly that I would not play any games or gimmicks. Other states aren't funding their pension plans, as if that's savings. Well, that's not really savings. The obligation continues to grow, it just gets handed off to the next governor. In point of fact, that's what happened to me.