Democrat Dannel Malloy made his second trip to Washington, D.C., as Connecticut's governor-elect this week, meeting with President Barack Obama, members of his cabinet and Connecticut's congressional delegation.

"I'm trying to build relationships," Malloy said by phone Thursday night.

Malloy, the former mayor of Stamford, will be sworn in Jan. 5 after winning a close race against Republican Tom Foley.

He replaces retiring Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who drew fire earlier this year when she skipped the National Governor's Association meeting in Washington.

Critics argued Connecticut's chief executive should have gone to ensure the state receives its fair share of funds and attention from federal lawmakers.

Malloy's schedule included a sit down with Connecticut's Congressional delegation, lunch with 22 fellow newly elected, mostly Republican governors, and meetings with the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development.

Malloy said he made it clear his administration wants to work with its federal counterparts and will actively seek financial assistance and apply for pilot programs.

The governors also met the president, who addressed the group after they finished lunch at the Blair House, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

Malloy and other Democratic victories in Connecticut have been credited in part to Obama's visit to Bridgeport the weekend before Election Day.

Obama defended his health care reform legislation, which Malloy supports but some Republican governors want repealed.

"There are going to be times where we do believe that having basic national standards are going to be important," Obama said. "That there are certain things that we as a country, we as a people, aspire to, and that we need to maintain some consistency across the states."

But the president also said he welcomed states' input on how to curb spending at a time of budget shortfalls.

"We're going to be interested in hearing from all of you about programs you think are working, but also programs that you think are not working," he said. "Contrary to the mythology, believe it or not, it turns out that I would love to eliminate programs that don't work."

Malloy faces a $3.4 billion deficit and the need to streamline Connecticut's government in his first, two-year budget.

Rell and the Democratic-majority legislature in recent years have promised major restructuring but failed to deliver.

"We're working on that actively on a number of fronts," Malloy said, promising to meet with state unions, agency heads and the private sector.

"This budget will reflect my desire to combine some existing departments and will also, presumably do additional consolidations and reorganizations in the second year as well," he said. "I think it will be a multi-step process. We're taking ideas from all quarters. I've been looking at state government for the last year and have some presumptions which I'm testing with respect to the viability of certain consolidations."

Malloy's first trip to Washington Nov. 15 generated some unwanted publicity when media outlets such as the National Journal reported his critical comments of the Obama administration's message-machine in the wake of Democratic losses nationwide.

"This highly disciplined campaign for the presidency seemed to fall apart in a very short period of time when it came to discipline necessary to get the story out on what they actually had accomplished," Malloy told the New Democratic Leadership Council.

Malloy Thursday night said he and Obama have "a strong working relationship."

"(I) certainly believe in the things that he's trying to do," Malloy said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Staff Writer Brian Lockhart can be reached at