Saturday, February 11, 2012

The State Of Malloy

There is no question that Governor Malloy shakes things up. But when the fizz settles, you find yourself holding the same old bottle of beer – only now it’s flat.

“The budget is everything to Malloy,” former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Curry told a New York Times reporter, after which Mr. Curry issued a timely warning: “The last thing you want is a sequel to a fiscal crisis.”

National Democrats could not produce a budget, even though they controlled both houses of the U.S. Congress and the White House. The day that President Barack Obama delivered his “State of the Union” address marked the thousandth day the nation had hobbled along without a budget.

The budget situation in Connecticut is not quite that bad. Both houses of the General Assembly have been controlled by Democrats for decades. During the last election, state Democrats captured the governor’s office for the first time in more than twenty years. Taking a page from former “Maverick” Governor Lowell Weicker, the father of Connecticut’s income tax, Governor Malloy inaugurated the largest tax increase in state history, a record previously held by Mr. Weicker. The Malloyalists have said the budget is balanced, but voices in other rooms say “No.”

The expected “savings” in Mr. Malloy’s budget could not be verified by the state’ non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis on the day it was submitted for approval to the General Assembly. News outlets recently have reported that Connecticut is running a deficit following the largest tax increase in its history, but the prospective red ink has not tamed the inclination of Democrats to recklessly spend other people’s money. Even drunken sailors stop spending when they pass out on the curb; not so with the Democratic controlled General Assembly. Mr. Malloy’s budget prospectus includes more unaffordable Big Think spending.

Persistent critics of Mr. Malloy point out that he tied at least one of his busy hands behind his back in concluding a deal with unions in which current state workers agreed to a wage freeze for two years followed by three percent increases for nine years and a no-layoff pledge for four years, a sweetheart union deal that, given a faltering economy, easily could prompt Mr. Curry’s feared “sequel to Connecticut’s budget crisis.” Should Mr. Malloy feel the itch to cut spending on state employees’ salaries or woefully underfunded pension benefits, he will not be able to scratch it for nine years out. Indeed, Mr. Malloy’s revised Plan A budget deal is one of the reasons why Edith Prague – other than Speaker of the House and announced Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Chris Donovan, perhaps the most ardent union supporter in the known universe – said during the unions-Malloy Kabuki contract negotiations that SEBAC union negotiators would be insane to reject Mr. Malloy’s more than generous offer.

Mr. Malloy’s first budget, pre-approved by the General Assembly before negotiations with unions had been completed, was deconstructed and reconstructed after contentious negotiations between the governor and SEBAC, a coalition of unions authorized to negotiate contracts with the administrations’ budget handlers. In his “State of the State” address, Mr. Malloy mentioned his first budget as an instrument that had “bridged a $3.5 billion deficit, implemented Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and reached an agreement with our state’s public employees that will save taxpayers twenty one and a half billion dollars over the next 20 years.” Every proposition in that statement has been hotly disputed, but there was no mention of disputed budget figures in Mr. Malloy’s presentation the real subject of which was “me,” “myself” and “I”.

A current Office of Fiscal Analysis’ Overview of Governor Malloy’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget shows an increase in spending, an increase in taxes, a disappearing surplus, consolidations that produce no savings, a savings decrease and some confusing motion in the bottom line of the budget – none of which is uplifting. Here’s hoping the relevant legislative committees read the report.

Just for the record, Mr. Malloy mentioned the word “I” eighty nine times in his “State of the State” address. His more modest predecessor, former Governor Jodi Rell, mentioned the word “I” in her 2006 “State of the State” address 46 times. Former Governor John Rowland used the “I” word 14 times during his 2004 State of the State address. Former Governor Lowell Weicker, the father of Connecticut’s income tax, made use of the word 18 times in his 1993 State of the State address. No stranger to the word “I” -- Mr. Weicker auto-biography “Maverick” was reviewed by columnist and Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell under the title “Mr. Bluster Saves The World" -- has been known to overuse the first person singular in his philippics. It is no mean solipsistic accomplishment that Mr. Malloy has outstripped his most energetic predecessor by a perhaps unsurpassable margin.
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