HARTFORD -- Dannel Patrick Malloy of Stamford became Connecticut's 88th governor Wednesday, promising to help solve the state's dire fiscal problems with minimal impact on the social-service safety net.
At 2:41, the 55-year-old lawyer took the oath of office, agreeing to uphold the state and US constitutions, His former law partner, Stamford Probate Judge Gerald Fox Jr, administered the oath, ending the six-and-a-half-year tenure of Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
In his speech after taking the oath, Malloy said the state is at a "crossroads of crisis and opportunity."
Malloy said he is optimistic about the future, but it will take "shared sacrifice" throughout the state.
"Today I see an economic crisis, an employment crisis, both fueled by an anti-business environment," he said, calling for bipartisan cooperation on tackling the state's financial problems. Malloy praised his late mother for pushing him, the youngest of eight children, past his childhood disabilities.
The first Democratic governor in 20 years, Malloy told a crowd of about 2,600 in the William A. O'Neill Armory his now-familiar story of overcoming physical and learning disabilities to graduate college with honors, then lead his hometown for 14 years, through a period of unprecedented growth..
After a 15-minute parade around the Capitol, Malloy entered the armory to a standing ovation and shared the podium at the armory with his family, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and other constitutional officers, all Democrats who swept the recent election. All but Wyman, who was sworn in during a morning ceremony in the Capitol, also took the oath of office prior to Malloy.
Nikki O'Neill, widow of the last Democratic Gov. William A. O'Neill., was in the audience and was saluted by Wyman.
The former Stamford mayor moves into Room 200 in the Capitol at a time of dire financial stress that is bound to limit his goals during his four-year term. On the governor's desk, in the second-floor Capitol office, sit two cases of Malloy's business cards. "Dannel P. Malloy Governor," they say. Gone were the American Impressionist paintings that were on the office walls during the Rell administration.
Malloy faces an immediate, historic $3.5 billion deficit. Even with Democratic majorities in the state Senate and House and his 14 years experience leading Stamford, Malloy faces a daunting task in his first month, crafting a two-year budget to take effect July 1.
Gone will be the state's emergency reserves of $1.4 billion and $1.5 billion in federal stimulus money that lawmakers used as stopgaps to balance the current $19 billion spending package that expires June 30.
Malloy says he will balance spending cuts with revenue enhancements -- tax increases -- to offer the General Assembly a balanced budget that doesn't threaten the state's social-service safety net.
Malloy has other challenges as well. Business leaders complain the state is hostile to job creation. Electric rates are among the highest in the nation. The state's cities are struggling. And the divide between rich and poor state residents has led, some say, to inequities in how public school funds are apportioned.
Malloy has spent much of his transition time filling the top administration jobs, choosing in some instances to keep holdovers from the outgoing administration, tapping longtime associates from his days as mayor and picking legislators with experience in various areas of governance. He also has launched national searches to find top administrative talent in other areas.
Without revealing details of his inaugural remarks and his State of the State speech kicking off the legislative session, Malloy Tuesday indicated he will join California Gov. Jerry Brown and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in preaching the need for sacrifices.
"I am preparing the people of Connecticut for the challenge that lays before them," he said, calling the state's looming $3.5 billion deficit the largest per-capita shortfall in the United States. "A deficit that I can't cut my way out of, nor can I tax my way out of."
Following his mid-afternoon swearing-in, Malloy will accept a 19-gun salute outside the armory, then will be whisked by car around Capitol Avenue to the second floor of the Capitol, where he will sign three executive orders. One of the orders is expected to fulfill his campaign promise, changing the way the state keeps its books to use Generally Accepted Accounting Principles that should further increase the state's projected deficit.
At 3:30 p.m., he stepped up to the podium in the historic hall of the House for a joint session with the state Senate.
"They are related speeches," he said of the difference between the armory and the State of the State address.
"Some of the words will be the same words," he said. "The speech to the joint session is a longer speech, which is to say that the one delivered at the armory is the shorter one. How long they take will depend on how nervous I am and how much applause there is."
Malloy, fielding questions during his last news conference before taking the oath of office on Wednesday, told reporters the swearing-in event was located in the armory because it was inside and away from potentially inclement winter weather.
He said the First Company of the Governor's Foot Guard, which is running the black-tie ball for about 1,750 people in the Connecticut Convention Center, "pretty much dictated to us" the format of the $175-per-head gala, the proceeds of which will benefit the Foot Guard.
But Malloy admitted that recent inaugural balls, in which celebrants brought their own food and drink, seemed unacceptable. "People can debate that subject," Malloy said, adding that he was not involved in the details of the inauguration.
"I have been concentrating on filling out the administration and hiring commissioners, for which I think I've done a pretty good job," Malloy said. "I want to be very clear. The armory is, again, the people's building and I think it's an appropriate use of it."
Outgoing Gov. M. Jodi Rell hosted Malloy for a traditional lunch in the Governor's Residence prior to the inaugural festivities.