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In speech to tourism industry, Malloy avoids details on proposed cuts to promoting state

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HARTFORD, Connecticut — The state's marketing efforts have boosted tourism, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Tuesday. But he avoided details on how budget negotiations may ultimately affect how much the state will spend to promote it.

Speaking Tuesday at the annual Connecticut Governor's Conference on Tourism, he said the tourism and hospitality industries have added at least 5,000 jobs in the past five years, with job growth accelerating last year.

Malloy has made tourism and marketing of Connecticut a priority, but he has proposed cutting spending on tourism marketing to $10 million from $12 million as part of an overall effort to reduce spending. He's also proposed spending cuts for state parks, social services, libraries and other popular programs as the state faces a projected $2.5 billion deficit in the two-year budget.

"We want to make sure we're spending our money wisely. We want to be in concert and in partnership with all of you," he told more than 100 tourism industry officials and businessmen and women.

Malloy's lack of specifics wasn't lost on one tourism official at the conference.

"He said he'll invest in tourism but didn't say what pocket of money he'll use," said John Bourget, president of Witan Intelligence, a market research company in Avon. "I don't envy him the job of deciding what to cut."

The governor and Democratic legislative leaders began budget negotiations Monday. Malloy did not discuss specific items in the budget on Tuesday, but he said he and administration officials are making sure the spending plan includes funding to promote tourism.

Edward Dombroskas, executive director of the Eastern Regional Tourism District, said Monday the governor's budget proposal would significantly alter how Connecticut markets itself. The state's three regional tourism districts would be eliminated.

"We certainly all understand the budget stresses the governor is presented with," he said. "Tourism is probably going to need to participate in that solution."

The question is whether tourism is best promoted by a statewide organization or regionally, he said.

"We believe regional tourism is the strength of Connecticut," Dombroskas said.

Commissioner Catherine Smith of the Department of Economic and Community Development said Tuesday that marketing Connecticut in its entirety with destinations such as museums, state parks, two casinos and more than 100 other sites is "best for everybody."

"With limited dollars, it's more effective," she said.

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