Dan Malloy, who refused to take a no-tax pledge, says his communication with Cuomo could be better

Dannel Malloy. (Malloy via flickr)
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Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy sees at least a few unseized opportunities for collaboration between himself and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

"I think we should all agree that we dislike New Jersey," Malloy told a breakfast meeting of the Association for a Better New York this morning, to howls of laughter from a crowd that included former governor David Paterson, former Port Authority director Chris Ward, and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten.

Malloy has had a testy relationship with Cuomo since the two were each elected in 2010. Both governors set about to closing massive budget deficits, with Malloy often reacting negatively to comparisons to Cuomo's efforts in New York, which reportedly culminated with a call from Cuomo's top aide telling Malloy's office: "We operate on two speeds here: Get along, and kill."

According to Malloy, the communication between the neighboring governors could be better. 

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"I don't talk to your governor a whole lot, or he doesn't talk to me," Malloy said this morning. "I don't talk to the governor of New Jersey, or he doesn't talk to me. We actually sit next to each other at the NGA meetings, because New Jersey actually ratified the Constitution a week before we did, so he ends up having to sit next to me. I'm sure he doesn't find that attractive."

(More laughs.)

"We're not currently working on a regional basis, and let me be quite clear, nobody is more willing and anxious to work on a regional basis than I am, particularly in areas where we have some intrinsic strength," he said, mentioning financial services, bioscience and precision manufacturing.

"All of those things I think would be things I think we could work on and grow everybody's economy, and that's what I'd rather do," he said.

In his speech, Malloy drew a few other implicit contrasts. He joked that his 6,745-vote margin was a "landslide," but also argued it was the result of a brutal honesty about how he planned to close the budget deficit.

"One of the reasons my election was as close as it was, is that the playbook that some folks used, which was to make promises that you had no intention of keeping or don't believe you will be able to keep, I didn't use," he said. "So I refused to take a no-tax-increase pledge."

Cuomo repeatedly pledged throughout his campaign not to raise taxes.

Malloy said Connecticut was better off for his approach of both taxing and cutting.

"We were only one of a handful of states that actually went down that road, and we went down that road further. I think all of which actually allowed us to maintain educational commitments to our municipalities, prevented us from doing what just about every state in the nation did last year, and that was to push state obligations onto the shoulders of municipalities. One of the reasons we didn't do that in Connecticut in particular is our overreliance of property taxes as they currently exist," he said.

Cuomo's budget has drawn some criticism from school district superintendents.

And Malloy touted some progress on a "progressive agenda," like the passage of a transgender non-discrmination bill.

A similar bill failed in the New York State Senate last July.

But there were also some similarities Malloy pointed to. He said his current push for teacher evaluations was "very similar" to the agreement Cuomo recently reached with teachers. (Malloy drew some praise from American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten during the question-and-answer session, when she stood up to "give props" to Malloy for being an engaged partner in the negotiations.)

After the event, Malloy said the lack of communication with New York's second floor wasn't meant as a criticism of Cuomo.

"I've got to assume that we're both pretty busy guys, and we probably need to put pressure on our staffs to make time to work more closely together," he said. "He's got his hands full, I've got my hands full. That was not a criticism of Governor Cuomo and should not be reported as such."