Monday, July 26, 2010

Merrill Or Farrell

Ray Hackett, the Norwich Bulletin’s editorial page editor, has lost patience with Denise Merrill, the Democratic Assistant Majority Leader in the state House of Representatives who is leaving her position to run for Secretary of State.

“She came in last week,” Hackett wrote in a barbed editorial, “for an editorial board meeting for candidates in the Aug. 10 primary. I expected her to dance around or avoid any accountability for the state’s fiscal mess. I was flabbergasted by her unbridled arrogance — arrogance that is only surpassed by the depth of the debt — $3.5 billion — that she had a hand in creating.”

Hackett was astonished when Merrill blamed the $3.5 billion state debt “she had a hand in creating” on George Bush – “I kid you not.” Trumpeting the Democratic Party line, Merrill claimed that Democratic lawmakers “’cut’ $8 billion over a two-year period from the state budget. But when we asked her where those cuts were made, her response was: ‘I don’t know.’”

Two kickers make the interview astonishingly newsworthy.

Appealing to her practical experience – Merrill has 18 years in the General Assembly, four of those years as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, the last two as Majority Leader in the Democratic dominated legislature – the Norwich Bulletin editorial board asked what recommendations she would offer to resolve the state’s crippling debt?

Hackett records her frigid response:

““That’s not my problem; I’m running for secretary of the state. I’m out of there. That’s for the next administration and legislature to resolve.”
In her maiden campaign announcement last July, Merrill described Connecticut’s clean campaign finance law as the “seminal accomplishment of our state in the last decade.” Turning to questions relevant to the Secretary of State position Merrill hopes to occupy, the candidate interviewing for the paper’s endorsement was asked a series of questions concerning certain disparities in the state’s public financing law.

The law treats third party and petitioning candidates different than Democrats and Republicans. Is this fair? Merrill answered “Yes.” She was presented with a hypothetical question: If someone were to run against her as a petitioning candidate, would she think she was better than her opponent just because she was a Democrat? According to Hackett, Merrill answered affirmatively because “as a Democrat, she represented more people” than the petitioning candidate.

There are straws that will break the strongest camel’s back. Hackett writes:

“I asked her to explain the logic behind allowing incumbents with no opponents to get public financing for campaigns that can’t lose. She said that, too, was fair because they ‘might’ get an opponent. I suggested why not wait until that happens. She said, ‘There wouldn’t be enough time (for the incumbent) to spend it all.’

“I said: ‘That’s the most insane logic I’ve ever heard.’ She didn’t care.

“This is the woman who wants to be the state’s next chief elections officer.”
Asked to respond to Merrill’s Bulletin endorsement interview, Jerry Farrell, the present Consumer Protection Commissioner running as a Republican for Secretary of State, said he had read the article and was “astounded at her comments, though her comments to the Bulletin seem very much an extension of what she said at a forum at the Hartford Public Library a few weeks ago.”

State government has played a direct roll in creating the state’s present financial difficulties, Farrell said:

“The State needs to get its fiscal house in order - by spending less, finding efficiencies, slashing unfunded liabilities and debt - if we want to attract businesses and get our residents jobs. Unfortunately, Denise Merrill believes that throwing money at every problem is the only solution; she just doesn't understand the damage she has done as Majority Leader to the people in this state. Her comments along the campaign trail confirm that, if elected Secretary, she will find more ways to tax and burden the people of Connecticut and spend us and our children into more debt.This is the exact opposite of what Connecticut needs.”
Farrell has made cost saving economies in his own Consumer Protection department that have served as a template for other departments. His cost saving initiative serve as the center joist of his standard stump speech:

“Just this past year, DCP saved $750,000 in printing costs by posting forms and brochures online, where a consumer can go and print exactly what they need. By this fall, we will also be emailing most licenses to the licensee - as a jpeg that the licensee can print out at home - saving $250,000 in postage. I have also opened DCP's online licensing functions to other state departments; so far the Department of Public Health, the Department of Agriculture, and the Charities Bureau, have taken advantage of this, instead of spending the millions of dollars that had been proposed to create their own online licensing systems. Given that the Secretary of State has a constitutional duty under our state constitution to be the chief "record keeper" for state government, I will use that constitutional duty to work with all state agencies to do the very same things I have done at Consumer Protection - going online and going as paperless as possible. People forget how much cost there is to a "paper bound" government - real quantifiable costs in purchasing paper, printing brochures, and postage. As Ronald Reagan once said, a million here, a million there - it all adds up. I will work to find those millions and give them back to the taxpayers of our state.”
The best stimulus, Reagan would have agreed, is a tax uncollected, and the less a government spends, the less often it must burden wealth producers with charges that quickly become someone else’s problem.
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