"… these people keep saying there's got to be other ways to do it. I'm calling their bluff" – Governor Dannel Malloy, announcing his plan for a pre-special session, closed door meeting.
“These people” are, of course, minority Republicans in the General Assembly who have been consistently shooed out of room by Mr. Malloy during budget negotiations. The above quote suggests that Mr. Malloy, beset by continuing deficits, is now prepared to negotiate in good faith with side-bar Republicans. Mr. Malloy clearly is signaling that the “greater good” should take precedence over the lesser good sometimes supported by majority Democrats whose political livelihood depends upon securing the active intervention of special interests.
In politics, however, appearances may be deceiving. In the minds of Machiavellian politicians, appearances are often intended to deceive, and while Mr. Malloy is no Machiavelli, he has in the past attempted to marginalize Republicans by preventing their direct participation in budget negotiations.
Mr. Malloy’s “bluff calling” may be regarded as a brief pause in the majority party’s thus far unsuccessful attempt to render politically ineffective the sometimes successful resistance of minority Republicans. Majority Democrats continue to man all the heights in Connecticut politics. They’ve captured from moderate Republicans the Governor’s office, the entire U.S. Congressional Delegation, and all the Constitutional offices in Connecticut; Democrats also hold the General Assembly in their unrelenting grasp.
It is events – not the Republican Party alone – that seem to have persuaded Mr. Malloy to include Republicans in his pre-special session, closed door budget deliberations. Though he may do so any time he chooses, Mr. Malloy has not decided to convene a special session which, unlike the closed back door pre-special session he recommends, would be an open and public proceeding. Open and transparent proceedings, any good Machiavellian will tell you, are less susceptible to political manipulation and media deception.
There is no reason why Mr. Malloy and his confederates in the General Assembly – President Pro Tem of the Senate Martin Looney and Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey -- should not commit, before the closed door pre-special session meeting, to a date-certain for the special session. Without such a commitment, Majority Democrats very well might reject any proposal made by minority Republicans – after Republicans have committed themselves in semi-permeable, closed door sessions to specific proposals that could be used against them in the upcoming General Election by crafty media supported Democrats with progressive knives in their teeth.
It already is well known that majority Democrats have continually addressed repetitive deficits through tax increases. The tax increases – both the largest and the second largest in state history – have served mostly as temporary budget deficit patches and sops to progressives in the Democratic Party who appear to believe that increasing taxes during a protracted recession will, to borrow an expression from former President John Kennedy “lift all the boats.” Actually, Mr. Kennedy’s solution to the stagflation of his day was to cut taxes, thus priming job pumps and business expansion in the private economy.
If you can’t raise taxes to discharge chronic deficits – and Mr. Malloy has insisted several times, most recently this week, that he has no intention of causing further damage to Connecticut's fragile economy by raising taxes again – there is but one course open to you. Cut spending. To do this, Mr. Malloy will need a few Republicans pulling on the General Assembly oars. Let us call this the appearance of a rapprochement with the battered Republican minority, remembering always that in the political theater appearances are sometimes purposely deceiving.
A number of things must change before Connecticut, to employ a Trumpism, is made great again. The right taxes, those that spur business activity and job production for all companies in Connecticut, must be put on a solid footing, remembering always that cautious businesses, those operating under the Damoclean sword of uncertainty, will not use their resources to increase jobs and the state’s wealth. Long-term spending must be reduced by about $1.5 to $2 billion. Schooling, particularly in urban areas, must be reformed, possibly through a voucher system that would allow parents a greater choice in selecting better schools for their children. The tax code should not be used in a punitive manner to punish entrepreneurial success; rather it should be used to reward socially beneficial behavior. Connecticut, still one of the richest states in the nation, should use its wealth to enhance and enlarge the greater good, which almost always is the enemy of the lesser good assiduously courted by those politicians who are the handmaidens of special interests. Open government, like contracts openly arrived at, enhances democracy; closed proceedings strangle democracy in its crib.
A date, agreed upon by Mr. Malloy and Democratic and Republican leaders in the General Assembly, should be set for an open special session, preceded by open public hearings that may be attended by anyone – even overlooked municipal leaders – whose testimony could be vital to permanent solutions that will cauterize suppurating economic wounds and re-open an access road to Connecticut’s prosperity.