By Stephan Kalin
Connecticut's ""Still Revolutionary'' tourism marketing campaign is succeeding and deserves continued funding, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Tuesday.
The campaign, unveiled last year as part of a two-year, $27 million initiative, generated 270,000 additional visits to Connecticut in the past year and yielded an extra $161 million on dining, entertainment and vacationing, according to Malloy. The campaign attempts to draw attention to Connecticut's role in historic events such as the Revolutionary War and the Industrial Revolution.
""We put $15 million aside for promotion of tourism,'' Malloy said. ""It has a profound impact. It pays for itself.''
His comments came at a conference for the tourism industry at the Connecticut Convention Center where the ""Still Revolutionary'' campaign was celebrated. Malloy said he would defend the funds allocated for the marketing campaign and push to market the state in new venues.
""I'm proud that I'm the governor who got Connecticut back in New England,'' he said. ""But I'm particularly proud that I'm the governor who's trying to promote this industry.''
Malloy had the state pay $100,000 in dues in 2011 to renew its membership with Discover New England. The regional tourism group left Connecticut off a website map the previous year after former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell slashed the state's tourism marketing budget to $1, leaving the state unable to pay its dues.
In his 2010 campaign for governor, Malloy, a Democrat, called the funding cuts an embarrassment and promised to boost tourism as a way to create jobs in industries ranging from lodging to restaurants and historic sites and other attractions. He said Tuesday that one in 11 jobs in Connecticut is in the tourism, culture or hospitality fields.
In his new two-year $43.8 billion budget plan, Malloy is seeking to restore to the tourism marketing fund $3.5 million that the legislature cut last year. Democratic lawmakers' budget proposal, by contrast, includes a further $3.4 million cut to the marketing campaign.
Speaking at Tuesday's conference, Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr. echoed Malloy's call to maintain funding for tourism promotion, which he said requires attention to the state's history, culture and heritage.
""We are the trustees of that history,'' he said. ""It is up to us to preserve that for future generations but also for our own economic well-being.''
Williams said the key to ensuring funding for such initiatives was to change the definition of the state's constitutional cap on spending. Malloy proposed changing the cap to exempt the amount Connecticut has to spend on Medicaid in order to receive 100 percent federal reimbursement under the new Affordable Care Act.
Williams said allowing exemptions to the spending cap would free up resources for ""critical enterprises'' like tourism.