That sound we hear is the scales falling from the eyes of prominent Democrats.
For the first time in 20 years the funds Connecticut holds to meet its pension obligations has dipped below 50 percent, according to an actuarial valuation prepared by Cavanaugh Macdonald Consulting of Kennesaw, Ga.
The fund, now at a 45% level, is due to dip further when another $100 million pension contribution deferred in the current year kicks in.
The state legislature has been dipping into the fund to pay for budget deficits as often as key legislators thought no one would notice.
Winking at the many pilferings of the fund in the past, some Democrats have now awakened to their responsibilities.
"We know we have to get things back on track," said Rep. John Geragosian, D-New Britain. Mr. Geragosian, co-chairman of the legislature's Appropriations Committee, is now fully awake and on the job.
"This is one of many challenges that we have to begin dealing with in the next session,” Mr. Geragosian said.
Bully for him; better late than never; wonderful what a new Democratic governor has done for drowsy Democratic legislators… and so on and so forth.
CtMirror reports: “A May 2009 concession deal negotiated by Gov. M. Jodi Rell and ratified by state employee unions and the General Assembly deferred $214 million in pension contributions over the past two fiscal years, and allowed another $100 million deferral this year.”
These deferrals were little more than gimmicks, and having campaigned on a “no gimmick” platform, it is expected that Governor-elect Dan Malloy will be able to reduce the debt burden through union concessions.
Both the state debt, projected at $3.67 billion for the next fiscal year, and long term pension obligations no doubt weigh heavily on the minds of the incoming governor and Democratic legislative leaders, now fully awake.
Mr. Malloy has offered no details concerning concessions from state workers, but his passion to right the ship of state peeks through his rhetoric.
The depressing figures, Mr. Malloy said, provide yet “another reminder of just how deep a hole our state is in. The news is grim, the decisions are tough and the sacrifices will be many in order to get Connecticut's fiscal house in order. But let me be clear: we will get there."
There is some indication that we will not get there by bonding. Some large bonding issues, including funding of $81 million for 38 new rail cars, were thrown into doubt recently when two prominent Democrats – U.S. Senator-elect Richard Blumenthal and Lieutenant Governor-elect Nancy Wyman -- failed to show up at a bond hearing. During his campaign for the senate, Mr. Blumenthal joked that he had been known to show up at garage sales. The media noticed his absence.
Mr. Blumenthal begged off, he said, because “I thought that it was inappropriate for me to vote on major bonding decisions just a few weeks before my leaving office and a newly elected administration assuming responsibility for huge state budget challenges."
Apparently, Mr. Blumenthal is not at all worried that the continuing cataract of press releases issuing from the attorney general’s office under his name will force incoming attorney general George Jepsen to press forward with litigation preferred by Mr. Blumenthal before Mr. Jepsen has had an opportunity to review the legacy left him by the senator-elect. During his own campaign, Mr. Jepsen indicated he might plot a somewhat different course than Mr. Blumenthal.
When Mr. Blumenthal arrives in congress, he will find a man-sized budget deficit awaiting him. Here in Connecticut, he has missed a rare opportunity to practice voting “no” on measures that are unaffordable, given the depth of Connecticut’s red ink. In deference to a conscientious regard for duty, not to mention his future congressional constituents, Mr. Blumenthal easily could have showed up at the meeting and voted “yes”, “no” or abstained from voting, giving his reasons for doing so to Connecticut voters. Slinking off to congress having avoided a vote important to Connecticut taxpayers marks a timid ending to a career as an attorney general full of pluck and seemingly endless public visibility.