Friday, July 05, 2013

Malloy’s Responsibilities

The Headline on the story was New State Laws Take Effect: Gas Taxes, Gun Restrictions, Pool Safety and, in the body of the story, Governor Dannel Malloy was quoted to this effect after he had been questioned on his increase of Connecticut’s gas tax, already the highest in the nation: “I wasn't governor in 2005. I wasn't the minority leader of the House or the minority leader of the Senate in 2005.''

In 2005, during the administration of Governor Jodi Rell, the Republican governor and the Democratic dominated General Assembly had decided to increase the tax as part of a long term plan. Mr. Malloy, a Democrat, and the Democratic dominated General Assembly this year decided to play the role of bystanders and let the tax increase happen.

Since Mr. Malloy had assumed his responsibilities as governor, Republicans had been more or less sequestered by the Malloy administration; Republicans leaders were not permitted to leave their fingerprints on either of Mr. Malloy’s two budgets, one of which, the first, imposed on the state the largest tax increase in its history.

This tax increase was a part of what might be called Mr. Malloy’s “Shared Sacrifice” plan, according to which those who provide state revenues, taxpayers, and those who consume taxes, state workers, were to share equally the awful burdens that fell to Mr. Malloy when he became governor. Mr. Malloy’s savings were negligible; his revenue increases were deep and permanent. Tax payers crushed the grapes; tax consumers drank the wine.

Mr. Malloy had a plan. He executed the plan with a great deal of assistance from Democratic leaders in the General Assembly who were able successfully to elbow Republicans out of the budget negotiating room. 

Mr. Malloy’s two budgets, then, are not the responsibility of any previous governor, even though his two budgets were crafted, some would say wrongheadedly, to address problems he “inherited” when he came into office.  Mr. Malloy’s patrimony as governor, it should be noted, is not solely a bag of woe. New governors inherit both the wins and losses of their predecessors, and every governor either builds upon or destroys the work of politicians that preceded him. Governors are the sum of the choices they make.

In his most recent budget, Mr. Malloy raids the state’s transportation fund to the tune of $91 million, while at the same time imposing the largest fuel tax increase in state history. On the matter of taxes and “revenue enhancements,” this governor always thinks large. So depleted is the state’s transportation fund that there may not be enough in the kitty to sustain current transportation expenditures.

Now then, Mr. Malloy chose to cut Republicans out of budget negotiations; he chose to impose on the state the largest tax increase in its history; he chose to raid the already depleted transportation fund, so that he might dump the revenue into the state’s deficit ridden general fund, where most targeted funds and broken political promises end up. The general fund is little more than a trash heap of good intentions.

Heath Fahle, Policy Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, hit several nails on the head when he wrote in a column printed in CTNewsJunkie, “As a small geographic space located directly between two of the nation’s biggest metropolitan areas, one might think that a modern transportation system would be a top priority. But with one in five Connecticut residents on Medicaid, unfunded pension liabilities that under the most optimistic of outlooks are underfunded by billions of dollars, and the worst performing economy in the nation, it isn’t hard to figure out how infrastructure investments were crowded out of the budget.”

The infrastructure investment fund raid occurred around the same time as the publication of “The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 Report Card” on the Nation’s Infrastructure. "Driving on roads in need of repair costs Connecticut motorists $847 million a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs,” which works out to $294 per motorist, according to the report. It’s not just the roads; the state’s bridges are in disrepair.

At some point, people in the state  must decide whether they want a governor and a legislature focused on re-inventing Connecticut or, more modestly, one that will repair roads and bridges. The lesson of Daedalus hangs like a threat of doom over the haloed heads of most world saviors: Wax wings, the ego driven flights of fancy of the usual politician on the make, are never a match for the reality of truth in all its fiery splendor.
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