Published January 10. 2013 4:00AM
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in effect delivered two State of the State addresses on Wednesday.
The first focused on the tragedy in Newtown that hung heavily over the House of Representative's chamber. Gov. Malloy devoted the first one-quarter of his address to the slaughter of innocents that happened less than one month ago and to its aftermath. The profound emotional impact this event had on the governor was evident as he choked up recalling the horror and heroism of that day.
It was, as the governor noted, different from the speech he envisioned giving prior to Dec. 14. Since then, said Gov. Malloy, "we have all walked a very long and very dark road together." The unusually somber atmosphere gave truth to that observation.
On this topic he struck the right notes. He leavened the reality of the evil that day with the good, noting, "in the midst of one of the worst days in our history, we also saw the best of our state." The governor talked of the courage of the educators who died trying to protect their students, the work of emergency responders, and of a community and state coming together to persevere and move forward while never forgetting.
Among the jobs of a governor are chief consoler and assurer in times of tragedy and disaster. Gov. Malloy has been called to fulfill these roles often in his first two years - Tropical Storm Irene and the freak October snowstorm in 2011, Hurricane Sandy this October, then Sandy Hook Elementary - and done the job well.
On Wednesday he referenced his recent appointment of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission that will look at what changes the state may need to take in gun control regulations, mental health services and school security to reduce the chances of such a thing happening again.
He appropriately dismissed the absurdity of the suggested "solutions" coming from some quarters.
"When it comes to preventing future acts of violence in our schools, let me be very clear - more guns are not the answer. Freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher, and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom," said Gov. Malloy.
In the "other" address the governor did not acquit himself as well. While the legislature and public should not have expected the governor to detail how he plans to address the fiscal and economic challenges facing the state - that will await the arrival of his budget proposal a month from now - some broad outlines would have been nice. There were none. In fact, the governor did not talk much about the state of the state. It is not very good.
Gov. Malloy and the legislature must figure out how to fill a roughly $1 billion hole projected for the next fiscal year.
The last concession deal signed with labor unions protects them from layoffs and assures raises over the next three years. After being hit with across-the-board tax increases, taxpayers are in no mood for more and the governor has suggested he won't propose them. But ideas on how he might fix things were lacking from his speech.
State unemployment is at 8.8 percent, compared to 7.7 percent for the country. In the Norwich-New London job market unemployment stands at 9.2 percent and no job market in the country saw more job losses from October 2011 to October 2012. Analysts have placed Connecticut at or near the bottom when it comes to overall debt, unfunded pension liabilities, and credit worthiness. The governor made little reference to that state.
Gov. Malloy spent much of his speech on the achievements of his first two years, and many are worthy of praise - state pension restructuring that at least starts to reverse years of underfunding; educational reforms; reducing state bureaucracy; addressing the massive deficit he inherited.
He also referenced his aggressive approach to using state investment to attract and bolster business - Jackson Laboratories, the First Five and Small Business Express programs - but assessing the success of that strategy will take time.
Too much back-slapping, too little forward thinking - the public will demand more next month.