Matt Mitchell of Mitchell Oil asked Gov. Dannel P. Malloy why the state wanted to make investments in natural gas pipelines — investments the natural gas industry itself wasn't willing to make.
Mitchell was referring to comments Malloy made in 2012, that Connecticut could be more competitive, and investing in alternative sources of energy, including natural gas, might help. (To read his natural gas comments at Amity High School, click here.)
Malloy said Connecticut has to change its laws to lower energey costs. He said only about 30 percent of the state is served by natural gas, when in Massachusetts and Rhode Island that figure is 50 percent. In New Jersey it's 70 percent. Laws create that difference, Malloy said.
Malloy said less natural gas makes Connecticut less attractive to companies looking to relocate. He said other states let companies recover the cost of expanding gas pipelines over more years (lowering the cost per year) than Connecticut allows.
Malloy also suggested that local home oil delivery companies consider expanding their business offerings beyond oil, should more natural gas become available in the state.
Carl Bailey, of Bailey & Beatty Financial Services, asked why Connecticut ranked lowest in contributions to its state employee pension plans.
"I'd say we have more than a problem," Bailey said. "We have a crisis."
Malloy said the data Bailey was using dated back to 2009, and the state has made improvements since then.
This article talks about Connecticut's pension problems in 2010, and they put the state at second-worst nationwide for under-funded pensions.
Malloy first took time out to say this problem was created in the last 20 years when Connecicut had a Democratic legislature and a Republican governor. He wanted to share the blame politically.
"You can't get anything done in the state of Connecticut without the governor agreeing to it," Malloy, a Democrat, said.
After hammering home that point, Malloy said his administration changed the pension program in three ways that should cut its cost by something like $20 billion. He said going forward new law requires the pension funding be met each year, and he said that will save an additional $6 billion. Malloy said the basic problem the state had was it under funded its pension with the assumption doing that saved money.
"No one was making decisions based on what we could afford in the future," Malloy said.
A member of the audience asked why business people should care about early childhood education, and Malloy answered that a person who starts school ready to learn (a 30+ year federal requirement) has a vocabulary that is four times the size of a similar person without pre-school education.
Stephen Bull, president of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce, asked Malloy about the plan to reinstate tolls on Connecticut highways. Malloy said he is against border tolls, but did not come out against tolls in general.