- Associated Press - Thursday, May 8, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy pivoted Thursday to his re-election campaign, trumpeting his legislative victories a day after the General Assembly’s adjournment, saying real progress has been made to improve Connecticut’s financial footing over the past four years.

“What we accomplished this year and all of the years since I’ve become governor represents progress,” said the Democrat, touting a balanced budget he and legislative Democrats crafted for the new fiscal year that does not raise taxes, as well as bills expanding pre-kindergarten opportunities and finalizing a massive tax credit deal his administration reached with United Technologies Corp.

Malloy also said he and lawmakers worked to help the middle class - and those hoping to join it - by increasing the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017, helping to make college more affordable with several new initiatives, and eventually reinstating the sales tax exemptions on some clothing and footwear costing and non-prescription drugs.

But legislative Republicans contend there are few political victories Malloy can claim from the last session.

“The real question has to be, is Connecticut a better place than it was four years ago,” said House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk. “We’ve had four years of one party rule in essence, and at the end of the day, if all you can say is the budget is balanced and we didn’t raise taxes, I think that’s pretty sad and frankly not true.”

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, contends that voters don’t share Malloy’s optimism.

“The words coming out from him about Connecticut moving forward, things being better, all of that is not reality to too many people in the state of Connecticut,” he said.

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said he believes Malloy can campaign on his legislative accomplishments, calling the recent drop in the state’s projected $500 million surplus to $43.4 million “a momentary glitch,” something even Republicans didn’t see coming.

Recent polls from Quinnipiac University have shown voters are unhappy with Malloy’s handling of economic matters.

A survey of 1,878 registered voters conducted between Feb. 26 and March 1 found 29 percent of voters approved of his handling of taxes while 63 percent disapproved. On his handling of the economy and jobs, 33 percent approved while 60 percent disapproved, while on handling of the budget, 37 percent approved while 53 percent disapproved. The survey had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

Quinnipiac plans to release a new poll on Friday regarding Malloy’s approval figures and how he fares in hypothetical match-ups with the GOP contenders.

Cafero said he believes voters are still smarting from Malloy’s 2011 push to increase taxes to help cover a projected budget deficit.

On Thursday, Malloy pledged not to raise taxes any further. Despite projected deficits in the billions over the next several fiscal years, Malloy said key changes to improve the state’s financial situation will lead to more robust growth.

“I do not believe,” Malloy said, “we will do anything but cut taxes for the foreseeable future.”

Cafero questioned Malloy’s pledge, calling it a “desperate claim” that he didn’t believe.

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