Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lamont To The Rescue


Today, Connecticut finds itself facing immense fiscal challenges — as our working families and small businesses continue to bear the brunt of the economic downturn.

After years of unfocused leadership, our state is sorely in need of a chief executive who will focus like a laser on creating jobs and getting our economy back on trackNed Lamont

If you unpack “economic downturn,” you will find that the “burden borne by working families and small businesses” is related to high spending priorities in the Democratic dominated legislature, an unfriendly tax environment and excessive liabilities. A chief executive who focused like a laser on “creating jobs and getting our economy on track” would sturdily resist a legislature now spending beyond its means by, in round figures, about $3 billion.

One can only hope the next governor will direct his or her well focused laser at legislative leaders such as Speaker of the House Chris Donovan and President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams, both of whom have shown themselves to be resistant to spending cuts. Donovan especially prefers “revenue enhancements” over cuts that may disturb his principal political supporters, union workers.
A Democratic hand on the tiller, it is tempting to think, may have a firmer grip on the direction of the ship of state than any of the previous three Connecticut governors, two of them Republicans, and a third, Lowell Weicker, who assisted Mr. Lamont in his failed senate campaign against present U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, a faux Republican who once identified himself, correctly, as “a turd in the Republican Party punchbowl.”

For the first time since former Gov. William O’Neill left office, the gubernatorial plum lies within reach of Democratic fingers, now that Gov. Jodi Rell has bowed out of the gubernatorial contest, and a government wholly captured by Democrats would be a “no excuse” government.

Lamont, best known for his ardent opposition to a war policy in Iraq that pretty much everyone agrees has accomplished the goals of ex-President George Bush, is beginning to sound like every other Democratic gubernatorial job growth candidate. Indeed there is no one in either the Democratic or Republican camps who would not, were he a governor armed with a magic wand, wave it over brutalized Connecticut and instantly produce the jobs without which the state cannot recover from its economic doldrums, closely related these day to legislative doldrums.

The legislature has reached the bottom of its revenue barrel. Its off budget credit card has been maxed out. Mommy, in the form of Moody’s rating service, already has rapped its knuckles and warned that the state’s bond rating will further deteriorate unless the legislature minds its economic matters by reducing both spending and its long term liabilities.

The state’s pantry is empty but for one remaining golden goose, Connecticut’s millionaires and mini-millionaires. Eager fingers are now reaching for the state’s last untapped revenue source, hoping the goose does not take flight and move to Texas, a state that has no income tax and is better positioned than others to recover from what promises to be, especially here in Connecticut, a long, painful convalescence.

When he threw his hat in the gubernatorial ring Tuesday at the old State House, Lamont mentioned Texas in connection with job production:

“I was talking with a manufacturer the other day, and he told me about a guy named Rick. ‘He kept calling to tell me that I should move my company to Austin, Texas -- lots of other manufacturers like me in Austin, he said -- in fact, he’d fly me down to take a look. I said no thanks, Rick, I’ve always been a New Britain guy, so I’m not inclined to move -- and he said ‘Oh, come on -- take a look.’

“That’s Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas... and Connecticut needs a governor who picks up the phone, beats the pavement, who puts us back on the offense.”
If the governor of Texas has been successfully poaching companies from Connecticut, it is likely that Texas has a better product to offer.

Whether the next governor will be able to change the getting and spending environment in Connecticut so that its sales pitch to companies on wheels will be more alluring than at present is a consummation devoutly to be wished. Phone calls are all very well and good; one supposes that the Rell administration made calls. But bringing to the surface a state that has the largest per capita debt in the nation is going to take a little more in the way of blood sweat and tears than is apparent in Lamont’s gubernatorial announcement.
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