Q & A with… Nancy Wyman
State Comptroller talks about run for Lt. Governor
By Judie Jacobson
Nancy Wyman received the Democratic endorsement for Lt. Governor at the party’s convention in April, running on a ticket with gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy. Malloy and Wyman will face Ned Lamont and running mate Mary Glassman in the August 10 primary.
The first woman elected State Comptroller since the office was created in 1786, Nancy Wyman is the chief fiscal guardian for Connecticut’s taxpayers. Wyman, first elected statewide in 1994 and re-elected in 1998, 2002 and 2006, is responsible for paying the state’s bills, keeping its books and representing the taxpayers in state fiscal matters.Prior to her election as state comptroller, Wyman served as state representative (1987-1995) from the 53rd District. She was House chairperson of the Education Committee and chairperson of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education. From 1979-1987, Comptroller Wyman served on the Tolland Board of Education and was Vice-Chairperson for four of those years.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Wyman and her husband, Michael, have lived in Tolland since 1973. They have two daughters and sons-in-law and five grandchildren.
Recently, Wyman visited the offices of the Ledger in West Hartford where she chatted with a group of local Jewish women about her background and the race for Lt. Governor.
Q: First, you’re very active in Jewish life in the Hartford area. You have a special friendship with Rabbi Wolvovsky of Chabad of Glastonbury. How did that begin?
A: One of my favorite stories is about the time Dick Blumenthal and I were at a meeting of Hadassah on the Sunday right before Rosh Hashanah. It was at the theater in Waterbury and there was a rabbi there to oversee the preparation of the food and I said hello. Then it was my turn to speak and I was talking about the holiday coming up and I said that I had taken a few hours off the day before to make my soup for the holiday – and I realized that the rabbi was standing in back of me and that the day that I cooked it was Saturday. So, I said to the rabbi “Excuse me, I’m really sorry about that.” And everyone laughed and I finished my speech and went back to talk to the rabbi. The rabbi was Rabbi Wolvovsky [of Chabad Jewish Center of Glastonbury]. And he said , “You know, there are two things that Jewish mothers say you must have: guilt and gelt.” And, he said, “I don’t know about the gelt, but, boy, do you have the guilt.”
Q: How did you get into politics?
A: I have two daughters and I did not like the way things were going in our school system. And I just thought we should impeach the board of education. I knew nothing about politics, but I knew someone who was supposed to be involved with politics and I called him up and said I’d like to impeach the board of education. And he said ‘”You mean the Republicans?” and I said “No, I mean the whole board of education.” The next thing I knew I was at a caucus. I didn’t understand the political things: I didn’t know what a Democratic or Republican town committee was, all I cared about was I was going to go in and change the way the school was. But I went … and I ended up running for the board of education. I stayed on the board and became vice chairman. That was the beginning.
Q: Why did you decide to run for Comptroller?
A: I wanted that job because of my involvement in the budget. I just felt that there should be somebody in command who wanted to talk about how we handled the budget and changing some of the state’s budgetary matters. I looked at the position and said we can do a lot here to change things and we need to change things and we need somebody who is vocal. I have truly loved my job.
Q: What is the state of the state today, in terms of the budget
A: Well, that is the reason I’m probably taking this next step. Here is what needs to be done: First of all, we need honesty in budgeting and we need to tell people where we stand. I have been talking about structural deficits for years now – that we have to take care of the hole in the budget. Let’s stop playing games. Let’s be honest. People must understand that there are only three things you can do to take care of fiscal problems: one, cut spending; two, borrow; three, implement revenue enhancers, better known as tax increases. But stop filling the holes with one-shot deals. And that’s what’s been going on. We’ve taken surplus money that we did have years ago, and we’ve been filling the holes with that surplus money; we’ve been using that for ongoing services. You can’t do that because, as you know, now there are no surpluses. And, as we’ve been seeing for the last couple of years, the revenues coming from the federal government are being used to fill the holes for money that we don’t have – for ongoing services. You can’t do that. You must either cut those services or curtail the growth of state government or you tell the people that you will have to increase taxes.
Now we’ve been borrowing and that’s a terrible thing for us to be doing right now. That’s why the next governor walks in with about a $3.5 billion deficit. There’s a new report that just came out that talks about our pension plan. Our pension plan is probably one of the worst in the country and that’s because all we’ve done is give early retirement that says “Okay, we’ll pay everybody to leave at 55 years of age – so, you’ll be on our pension plan longer.” But the last couple of years they’ve decided that they won’t even put money into the pension plan. They’ve delayed putting $100 million dollars into it last year; they want to delay it again this year. You let people retire early so it’s going to cost you more money…and then you don’t put money into the pension plan. It doesn’t work.
You cannot cut state budgets with an axe. Because no matter what anyone says the state is not a business, it’s a service organization. We are not here to make a profit. We are here to do what government is supposed to do for people. That’s all it’s supposed to be doing. And we’re not doing that in our state.
Q: Why did you choose to run with Malloy?
A: I would have had a very easy election as Comptroller. They didn’t really have anyone running against me. But you don’t always take the easy road. You take the road that you believe in. and because of the problems that are coming up right now I think I bring things to this ticket . And I believe that Dan Malloy is the one person who has a proven record. I’ve looked at both sides, and he is the person who I think can turn things around. I believe in him and we will really be a partnership. He understands that we have to be honest to the people in this state. And we’re ready to roll up our sleeves on the day we walk into office. It’s going to take awhile to get the state right. We’re a good team and I’m hoping that the people of the state of Connecticut will realize that Dan is the person to take this job over.
Q: What are some of the other issues as you see them?
A: We’ve got to talk about jobs and the fact that we don’t have enough jobs in the state right now. We’ve got to talk about educating our kids so that they’re ready to take over the jobs we do have. We have to talk about supporting small business because they are the engine to grow jobs in this state, which we haven’t been doing. We need these small businesses to grow. Health care. I’ve been working on health care for years. Just recently, with the power of the Comptroller’s office, we were able to help the retired teacher system. They were going out to bid for pharmacy. We said “come and join the state plan. You don’ t have to use the same benefit level, but let us purchase your pharmacy benefit.” We’ve now saved $3 million for that changeover. It’s time to use the state as a friend to businesses; helping municipalities out in buying healthcare to lower the property tax. We’ve got to concentrate on individuals – the small businesses – and health care is a big factor. We in the state have the power to buy and we should be using that to help businesses along – not big brother coming in and taking over – but giving them alternatives.
The baby boomers are coming. What are we doing about Medicaid. The population is aging. We have to keep people out of nursing homes and in their homes. It’s cheaper in the long run. We have to pay for prevention and keep people healthier, because then you save money.
There are so many things that we should be doing that we’re not doing.