Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Expropriations Committee

Those hands you feel in your pocket are attached to the arms of Toni Harp and John Geragosian, co-chairs of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee that, in view of the debt the state of Connecticut now is carrying, one wag suggested should be re-named the Expropriations Committee.

Responding to Gov. M. Jodi Rell's budget, Democratic legislators voted Thursday to increase spending by $373 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1.”

Senate GOP leader John McKinney’s brain was boggled by the news.

“They actually increase spending. It's mind-boggling. This budget is dead on arrival,” news of a demise that well might be premature.

Republicans said the spending boost was irresponsible in view of projected deficits of more than $350 million in the current fiscal year and an estimated $700 million in the next fiscal year.

If there is any lingering doubt that the state legislature rather than the governor shapes the budget, this highly irresponsible move by a spending addicted Democratic legislature should settle the question: In budgetary matters, the governor proposes but the legislature disposes. This time, Democrats who have controlled the legislature – and therefore budgets -- for the last few decades quickly disposed of the governor’s feeble efforts at spending control, after which they boosted spending.

On the vote to increase spending, some Democrats holding precarious seats dropped out of the usual caucus line and voted against the measure.

Having facilitated reckless spending almost as long as he has been in office, much of the time directing Democrats as co-chair of the judiciary committee,
Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford was abashed and said, “It spends too much. If I'm one of the players, I'm walking away from this ball field.”

McDonald’s cohorts threw the judiciary co-chair and other Democrats a curve ball when they proposed saving $22 million by eliminating 390 positions from state prisons and reducing the number of inmates through early releases, a move that would trigger layoffs for union workers who did not agree to concessions made last year by some state employees.

A handful of Democrats joined McDonald, shaking their heads in dismay.

House Republican leader Larry Cafero pointed out that Democrats seemed interested in plugging budget gaps only by shifting funds, borrowing money and holding out a tin cup to beltway patrons, themselves heavily in dept. Calling for serious spending cuts, he warned, "We are heading down this road on a train, heading for a brick wall. Now, we're on a suicide mission. ... Now, this is dangerous.”

Some few Democratic stragglers who had send a letter to their leaders demanding more spending cuts appeared to agree with Cafero, who remarked that the budget presented by the expropriations committee showed they concerns had “zero juice.”

Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington was troubled by the budget projections. “We’re driving over a cliff,” said Maynard, a faithful foot soldier. “I’m willing to do what’s fiscally unpopular, but I’m not willing to do the fiscally irresponsible,” a distinction not entirely lost on moderate Democrats in unsafe seats. But moderate Democrats, the Spix Macaws and the Jamaica Petrels of the Democratic aviary, have for some time been an endangered species.

After having been pelted by commentators for having a tin ear, Democrats quickly adjusted their plan but met an immovable object in Rell, who sent the lads and ladies a veto postcard from Colorado: "In essence,” the governor wrote, “this Democrat deficit mitigation plan raises taxes by $180 million, cuts spending by a paltry $65 million and relies on $175 million in other revenue, creative accounting and blithe assumptions to make up the difference.”

"As usual, the Democrats give short shrift to spending cuts and high priority to increasing taxes and other revenue - just at the time when Connecticut's families and employers can least afford it. The Democrats' meager spending cuts will do nothing to solve the long-term structural problems within our budget and the unaffordability of state government. It is time that our elected officials stood up and did what is right for the taxpayer.”

Democrats have a 114-37 majority in the House and a 24-12 majority in the Senate. To even the political see-saw, Republicans would have to pick up 39 seats in the House and 7 in the Senate.
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