BRIDGEPORT -- Tom Foley, the Greenwich millionaire who is reprising his 2010 bid for governor, thinks the state spends too much on mass transit. He's critical of the 2013 firearms reforms following the Newtown school massacre.
Red tape and regulations, he says, are stifling the business community; and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's "corporate welfare" is rewarding successful companies that don't need the help.
But the Republican frontrunner, who faces a primary Tuesday against state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney for the gubernatorial nomination, offered few details in a meeting Wednesday with the editorial boards of Hearst Connecticut Media, including the Connecticut Post, The Advocate of Stamford, Greenwich Time and The News-Times of Danbury.
Foley declined to say whether he would reduce mass transit funding and possibly trigger an increase in fares on the Metro-North commuter rail line.
He declined to say whether he supports the prohibition of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.
And he would not give an example of the onerous state regulations that might have stifled a particular company.
Foley said since his narrow 6,404-vote loss to Malloy in 2010 he has worked part-time in managing his interests in a South Carolina-based aircraft-servicing company, watched his 3-year-old twins grow and founded the conservative Connecticut Policy Institute.
Foley, like McKinney, who met earlier in the week with Hearst editors, blasted the Common Core national educational reforms.
"I've been involved with educational reforms for the last 15 years," he said. "It's something that preceded my interest in running for office," said Foley, 62, the former ambassador to Ireland under President George W. Bush who is seeking his first elective office. "I think it's a shame that 100,000 kids in Connecticut are not getting a decent education and that we've got the largest achievement gap (of) any state in the country, despite our being one of the wealthiest states in the country. So we simply have to do a better job for our young people in those schools that under-perform."
Foley said Malloy seemed "uninformed" about the statewide achievement gap back in 2010. While Malloy has since committed to education reforms, "I call them education reform-light," Foley said. "Because what he proposed were things that were pretty much superficial."
Foley said towns with successful schools districts should be exempt from Common Core requirements and tests.
"If you're a problem-solver, the first thing you learn is that you don't go fixing things that aren't broke," Foley said. "He should have taken his education-reform initiatives and focused them on schools that are under-performing, not schools in Wilton and Westport and West Hartford that are doing fine."
Foley blamed the state's national reputation for being antagonistic to business on "career politicians" such as Malloy and McKinney, who is leaving the Senate after eight two-year terms to challenge Foley for the party nomination. "Sen. McKinney has no experience running anything," Foley said.
Foley said that "there was no economic rationale" for Malloy and state development officials to partner with Jackson Labs, a Maine-based research company that is moving to the campus of the UConn Health Center.
As a businessman, his election would signal a change in attitude, Foley said.
"This governor is anti-business and you can't be anti-business and pro-jobs," Foley said. "His rhetoric is very anti-business. So mandatory paid sick leave, mandates on employers, running up the cost of electricity for not just consumers, but businesses like the (northeast Connecticut-based) Fusion Paper business that recently shut its operations. These are things that make it somewhere between annoying and impossible to run a business in Connecticut."
Foley used the word "abusive" to describe the obstacles that businesses face in the maze of regulations that can sometimes halt expansion plans or relocations for "two to three years."
But asked by editors to name a case in particular, Foley declined.
"Why do I need a specific example?" he replied.
Asked whether he approved of the prohibition against ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, Foley again declined.
"I'm not going to rewrite the bill, but there were a lot of inconveniences put on law-abiding citizens that wouldn't have prevented what happened in Newtown," he said. "These guns were bought with a background check and everything was legal."
On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, of Newtown, murdered his mother in her bed with a .22 rifle, then took her Bushmaster XM-15 military-style semi-automatic weapon with several 30-round magazines to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he shot to death 20 first-graders and six adults.
"My bill would have been different," Foley said of the 2013 firearms reforms that banned high-capacity magazines and rifles including the Bushmaster.
"I don't have the staff available to prepare an alternative bill and we're talking about something that happened several years ago," he said. "I'm looking down the road. I'm looking ahead. I'm looking at jobs and the economy. I'm not governor and I wasn't governor at the time."
Pressed further on the issue of whether he supports the ban on high-capacity magazines, Foley said "I'm not going to answer that question."
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