Senate President Don Williams, after speaking with a number of senators concerning a bill supported by House Speaker Chris Donovan to raise the minimum wage, conveyed the disappointing news to Mr. Donovan through a text message: Mr. Donovan’s bill simply did not have enough support in the chamber to pass. Mr. Williams said he resorted to a text message, according to one report, “because he feared once senators started to leave the caucus room word would leak out.” Caucuses in both chambers of the General Assembly have been leak proof since Dannel Malloy had been elected governor.
Unused to taking bad news for an answer, Mr. Donovan, retiring this year as Speaker, supposed that members in the Senate misunderstood how his scaled down proposal of a 50 cent hike in Connecticut’s present minimum wage -- at $8.25 the fourth highest in the country -- would be seamlessly meshed with tips given waitresses and bartenders. Mr. Donovan would see to it they were furnished with the right information and, ever ebullient, said he remained confident that the Senate would take up the bill before the session ended this year.
“People said I didn’t have the votes in the House,” Mr. Donovan enthused. “We got 88 votes here.”
High minimum wage enforcements by legislatures correlate with the percentage of union workers in a state, and in this respect Connecticut also excels, rating seventh highest in the nation with a unionized workforce of 16.7%.
The resistance to Mr. Donovan’s bill, Mr. Williams said, centered on timing: “They [members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate] felt the economic times were not right. They’ve supported minimum wage increases in the past. They strongly supported the Earned Income Tax Credit last year which provides a significant boost to low-income workers.” And, of course, the Democratic majority in the General Assembly also supported a guaranteed wage increase of three percent each fiscal year for state union workers nine years out as a part of its budget package, still wretchedly out of balance, according to recent figures supplied by the state’s Democratic Comptroller.
The same Democratic Majority in the General Assembly passed without much political fallout the largest tax increase in Connecticut history, topping even the bite taken out of taxpayer’s wallets by former Maverick Governor Lowell Weicker, who bullied the income tax through a compliant Democratic majority in the General Assembly more than twenty years ago.
The same Democratic Majority in the General Assembly passed in its current session a bill abolishing the death penalty for murderers who commit heinous crimes in the future -- but not, alas, for the 11 convicted murderers currently awaiting execution, all of whom have been desperately praying for abolition -- this despite polls showing that a majority of the abolitionist’s constituents favored retention of the death penalty for the kind of depraved crimes that have so richly earned the Connecticut 11 a trip to Death Row. Some attorneys and court watchers in Connecticut have predicted that the exception in the death penalty abolition bill will be vacated by an appeal court on constitutional grounds, and ethicists have argued that the exception is morally indefensible: If the General Assembly has abolished the death penalty because enlightened legislators regard such a barbaric punishment as morally indefensible, what is the moral justification of applying a repealed law to prisoners remaining on Death Row?
The same Democratic dominated General Assembly voted to legalize medical marijuana, approved an unaffordable bus line tagged by its opponents as “the bus to nowhere,” provided nearly $1 billion in funding to save the UConn Health Center – yet again -- and, with the governor’s concurrence, shoveled millions of tax dollars into the maw of prosperous Connecticut companies as a part of Mr. Malloy’s “First Five” program.
Perhaps Mr. Williams sensed a note of exhaustion among the Democratic members of his caucus, or a fear that voters in the upcoming elections might for once take notice of the spending proclivities of his accomplices in this the age of $5 trillion dollar national budget deficits. The news that Connecticut’s budget is in the red – yet again – by about $300 million following the state’s historic tax increase bounced off Mr. Donovan’s cranium like a rubber ball off a rock.
“What we have now,” Mr. Williams said before Mr. Donovan’s bill was left on the General Assembly's cutting room floor, “are pretty challenging economic times, with employers struggling and the fact that Connecticut’s minimum wage is higher than New York, it’s higher than Massachusetts, it’s higher than Rhode Island.”
Mr. Donovan, this year running for the U.S. House in Connecticut’s 5th District, has little to fear, little knowledge about how the real economy works in the real world, and a shortage of common sense, attributes that may fit him perfectly for a lifetime of service in the U.S. Congress.