Both Republican governors John Rowland and Jodi Rell used to refer to themselves as “firewalls,” usually after they had compromised with Democratic leaders in the General Assembly to pass budgets that present Governor Dannel Malloy has often characterized as bags of tricks and treats. Mr. Malloy has insisted that his budget, still being hammered out by his agents and representatives of unions, is, on the other hand, transparent and honest-- a good thing. No tricks or treats there. No smoke, no mirrors, the sort of budget one might expect from a governor wearing a white hat who is not the plaything of special interests.
The firewall disappeared altogether after Mr. Malloy became governor. The Rell-Rowland firewall was not fireproof. Had it been so, Connecticut’s bottom budget line could not have tripled within the space of three governors, and the state would not now rank first in the nation in per capita debt. It would not be losing jobs to New Jersey and New York and Massachusetts. And, of course, Mr. Malloy would not have been faced, coming into office, with a budget deficit larger than that accosting Maverick Governor Lowell Weicker in 1991, which deficit Mr. Weicker resolved by instituting his income tax.
During his campaign for governor, Mr. Weicker used a fiery metaphor to signal to voters that he would not institute an income tax should they elect him governor – because an income tax would be like pouring gas on a fire. And we all know what happens when gas is poured on a fire.
Poof! Allow Democrats in the General Assembly to run an income tax pipeline into the wallets of Connecticut’s long suffering taxpayers and, before you can cry fire in the crowded theatre, the roof of state government will be aflame with extravagant spending. Such was Mr. Weicker dire electioneering warning. And, as it turns out, he was right.
Then came the firewall governors who were not firewalls, the budget compromises between Republican governors and dominant Democrats in the General Assembly and, finally, Mr. Malloy, riding a white horse and calling for “shared sacrifice.”
In the age of YouTube, it has been possible for the Republican resistance in the General Assembly to post a string of embarrassing claims made by Mr. Malloy in the heat of a primary and general election campaign that rivals claims made by Mr. Weicker in that long ago campaign when budget deficits were about one third of what they are presently in the age of Connecticut’s new one party state.
Taxes in the Malloy budget have been raised $1.8 billion, so far. There were no negotiations between Mr. Malloy and taxpayers before Mr. Malloy demanded a “shared sacrifice” of them; though Mr. Malloy was kind enough to present to them his non-negotiable demands at no fewer than 17 Town Hall meetings. And now, Mr. Malloy, striving to tuck the budget to bed before the legislative clock runs out, but finding himself yet in negotiations with unions months after agents of Mr. Malloy first sat down at the table with union hard bargainers, has announced, on a holiday weekend, that $320 million of the nearly $1 billion surplus Mr. Malloy and Democratic leaders had smuggled into their budget, ostensibly to refill the state’s depleted rainy day fund, will be shared with -- unions, reducing the “shared sacrifice” of those who were largely responsible for his re-election.
Naturally, Republicans in the General Assembly, who played no part in Mr. Malloy non-negotiable Plan A, protested somewhat heatedly. Republican House leader Larry Cafero stormed, "The Friday night dump. Is that what it's called? This is the dump of all dumps. Friday night, holiday weekend. ... He [Mr. Malloy] drops the $400 million backfill plan… He uses $320 million of the surplus to make up $400 million in cuts -- $320 million! Classic Malloy. He says one thing, he does the other. Says one thing, does the other.”
And Republicans can be expected to crank out more YouTube clips that might possibly be of use in future campaigns against Democratic legislators – because the Republican Party, which was not permitted to invest in Mr. Malloy’s budget, is not, partly owing to role of agitator and chief Democratic Party scold played by outgoing party chairman Chris Healy, the sleepy, go-along-to-get-along party of yesteryear forced to make do with Democratic budgets winked at by Republican governors.
By any measure of sound economic health Democrats may point to, Connecticut, attached to a breathing tube, is lying stretched out on a gurney in the ER. State Democrats seems to be following the template set by President Barack Obama, Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senate President Harry Read at a time when Democrats enjoyed a veto proof majority in the congress: Never let a crisis go to waste without punishing your political enemies and rewarding your friends.
However, given the condition of the patient, state Democrats likely will have a heck of a time explaining to relatives of the stricken state why they are busying themselves passing budgets and laws that punish entrepreneurial capital, pander to unions, and pad with a surplus a state debt three times larger than the last $7.5 billion pre-income tax budget of former Democratic Governor William O’Neill.
While the state, now lacking any firewall, crumbles in flames, its inmates are forcing through the Democratic dominated legislature hastily written, defective bills abolishing the death penalty, facilitating transgenderism, larding with hidden taxes bills paid by energy consumers, arranging yet another muli-million dollar bail-out of the tax draining UConn Health Center, and collecting surplus money from hard pressed businesses and taxpayers to relieve unions of a good portion the “shared sacrifice” Mr. Malloy once sternly demanded of them, all of it making a queer sort of suicidal sense.
The great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said that given the choice of immediate execution or of being slowly trampled to death by geese, he would prefer a quick finish. The people of Connecticut soon will be faced with the same choice.