Think tank warfare

Democratic candidate Dannel Malloy and Republican candidateTom Foley square off in the Gubernatorial debate and luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich in Greenwich, Conn. on Friday October 1, 2010.

Democratic candidate Dannel Malloy and Republican candidate Tom Foley square off in the gubernatorial debate and luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich in Greenwich, Conn., on Friday October 1, 2010.

Numbers don’t lie — unless it’s fuzzy math.

Therein lies the debate being waged between Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration and a self-proclaimed nonpartisan think tank founded by Malloy’s chief detractor, Republican Tom Foley.

The New Haven-based Connecticut Policy Institute released a 20-page economic scorecard for Connecticut Thursday, and let’s just say the Land of Steady Habits didn’t come out smelling like roses.

The report points out that Connecticut ranked dead last in the nation in terms of the change in its gross domestic product in 2012.

The state finished second to the bottom in the growth rate of residents employed for 2012, according to the report, which cites data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Connecticut ranked 42nd in terms of the percentage of income middle class residents pay in state in local taxes, with 50th being the worst.

“The trajectory is bad relative to peer states both in the country as a whole and in the Northeast,” said Ben Zimmer, the institute’s executive director. “So our growth rates are among the worst in the country.”

A spokesman for Malloy, who defeated Foley by 6,500 votes in 2010 and could face the Republican in a rematch next year, characterized the work of the think tank as biased.

“I’m not going to comment on Tom Foley’s weak political action committee,” Andrew Doba said. “What I will say is this — we are growing jobs right now at a faster rate than at any other point since the recession began. In fact, the first two years under Governor Malloy’s leadership represented the largest two-year period of private sector job growth since the late 90s. Housing permits are up to pre-recession levels, home sales are returning to pre-recession levels. By any measurable standard, these are signs of progress.”

Zimmer disputed the claim that the think tank is doing the bidding for Foley, who he said provided $60,000 in seed funding for the institute when it launched in 2011 and $20,000 since. The organization’s annual budget is $150,000, according to Zimmer.

“I think, to some, degree it almost reveals a certain insecurity on their part,” Zimmer said. “This is just data and facts. I don’t know how you can say that it’s political to put out 20 pages of data that helps give people a sense of the economy of the state and where things have been going.”

Zimmer noted that Connecticut fared well in several categories, ranking fourth in per capita GDP for 2012 and third in percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree.

Neil Vigdor