Connecticut needs a mini-revolution.
A state budget, like a federal budget, is the single most important piece of legislation produced in any fiscal year. The reason for this is obvious: A budget is an appropriation and expenditure engine for a getting and spending vehicle that drives us into the future. It also is a destiny map. Without the engine, the car does not move. Precisely because a budget is central to the welfare of the state, all the representative organs of the state should participate in its formation.
Ever since Democrats seized control of the governor’s office in 2011 with the election of Governor Dannel Malloy, the first Democratic governor since the William O’Neill administration expired in 1991, representative government – particularly in connection with the budget – has been shelved by state progressives who are determined to use their levers of power to do two things: 1) to establish a permanent, unchangeable, progressive political order in the state, and 2) to effectively dismantle all opposition which, of course, would include both the opposition of a rival political party and public opposition in any form. This ambition is secured through a process of exclusion. Political appendages – i.e. state parties – atrophy when not in use, and so a denial of political participation, as any authoritarian tyrant well knows, is tantamount to a death sentence. The unitary party state ALWAYS results in the death of democracy, which can only express itself effectively through a political medium such as a political party.
One has only to look to Connecticut cities for examples of atrophied political opposition, one party rule and the demise of democracy at the hands of a permanent political class. Pastor Corey Brooks from one of the roughest sections of Chicago spoke for many when he said, “We have a large, disproportionate number of people who are impoverished. We have a disproportionate number of people who are incarcerated, we have a disproportionate number of people who are unemployed, the educational system has totally failed, and all of this primarily has been under Democratic regimes in our neighborhoods. So, the question for me becomes, how can our neighborhoods be doing so awful and so bad when we’re so loyal to this party who is in power? It’s a matter of them taking complete advantage of our vote.”
Twice during the administration of Mr. Malloy, Republican representatives in the General Assembly have been denied admittance to the Democratic Party private back room where Mr. Malloy has hammered out budgets with Connecticut’s REAL legislative organs – Democratic leaders in the House and Senate and SEBAC, the union conglomerate authorized to speak for state employees in contract negotiations. The new progressive order in Connecticut also has a reliable ally in a weak-tea media. This writer has referred to SEBAC in past columns as Connecticut’s fourth branch of government, and it would not be too much of a stretch to qualify Mr. Malloy and his back room bargaining associates – Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey and President Pro Tem of the Senate Martin Looney as union patsies. The people of Connecticut do not need a Governor SEBAC, and it is gut-wrenchingly humiliating to watch these three guardians of democracy bowing and scraping at the feet of union leaders, while the state they are supposed to represent tumbles off a cliff of their own making into a sea of red ink.
Mr. Malloy knows in his bones – deep in the marrow of his bones where the clamorous voices of special interests are muted – that state unions must be brought to heel. Connecticut must wring at least $2 billion from its suffocating, regulation-ridden budget. The easiest, least painful way of snatching dollars from the iron jaws of SEBAC is to raise by two years the retirement age for future state workers at all employee platform levels. And ending one of the retirement platforms most often used by politicians who want to pad their pensions – the vested right of retirement after ten years of service -- would wondrously improve the disapprobation of the general public towards grasping, selfish members of Connecticut’s permanent political class. That would put a permanent dent in the state’s unsupportable pension system; it would be a permanent, long term fix. Other Connecticut governors roundly criticized by Mr. Malloy have done just the opposite. Faced with budget red ink, they have provided early retirement for state workers in return for temporary budget adjustments, thus passing along Connecticut’s unsupportable pension bill to the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the state, deepening the state’s $76.8 billion pension liability.
Republicans should support such measures – and campaign on them, using in their campaigns the same populist rhetoric deployed by progressives. We all know that the “war against women,” a politically pious piece of nonsense invented by Democrats who hope to corral women’s votes in state and national elections, is a fraud. It’s worse than a lie; it’s a silly, easily exploded political bumper sticker. But the war of some – in Connecticut and elsewhere, special interests that support progressive policies – against all is not a lie. It is a garrote around the throat of democracy itself.