HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy pitched his economic development agenda on Wednesday to Connecticut's largest business group, but the sides avoided a looming fight over his demand that the legislature raise the state's minimum wage.
In a 25-minute speech and question-and-answer session before the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, Malloy repeated his pledge to not raise taxes, promised to reduce regulations and talked up a recent tax credit deal to promote job creation at aerospace giant United Technologies Corp.
It wasn't until he was asked by a local Chamber of Commerce president that the governor defended legislation gradually raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour on Jan. 1, 2017.
"Lifting people out of poverty is what we're trying to do," he said. "The idea that we would expect somebody to work 40 hours a week and raise a family and live in poverty doesn't make sense."
William Purcell, president of the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce in Shelton, who asked Malloy to discuss his proposal, said later he thought it was important "to tee it up."
"Arguments on both sides are equally compelling," he said. "It has a stimulus affect or the opposite. Somewhere between the two lies the truth."
The CBIA is not ambivalent. It's fighting the legislation, which cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday when it was approved by the legislature's Labor and Public Employees Committee.
John Rathgeber, president of the CBIA, said he did not raise the issue because there's no mystery where the two sides come down on raising the minimum wage.
"He knows we disagree," he said. "It's the wrong thing for us to be focusing on."
State government and business should instead target their efforts on job creation, Rathgeber said.
Malloy's appearance before the CBIA came on the same day that raising the minimum wage was expected to take the national spotlight in Connecticut. Malloy and Govs. Peter Shumlin of Vermont, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Deval Patrick of Massachusetts — all Democrats — were scheduled to appear with President Barack Obama in New Britain later Wednesday to push for a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour.
Malloy, who has not said whether he will seek a second term this year but is expected to run, struck a pro-business theme of reduced regulations and a promise that there will be no second round of tax increases. The governor and Democratic-led legislature enacted increases in the income and sales tax in 2011 to help close a deficit.
"We have too much regulation in the state of Connecticut," he said. "Nobody has been actively engaged in making sure that that the regulations make sense anymore."
Malloy said he's directed his commissioners to find ways to reduce regulations, and his administration is seeking to eliminate at least 1,000 pages of regulations.
In addition, the state budget, which is projected to have a $500 million surplus, will not be in deficit, he said.
"But if we did have a deficit, we're not going to raise taxes," he said. "We're done."