Is the long, amicable honeymoon between Governor Dannel Malloy and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly over? One report points to trouble in Eden.
Following a Democratic majority caucus, Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey confided to reporters that his people pointed a crooked finger of blame at Mr. Malloy for raises that the University of Connecticut gave to non-teaching staff. The raises were rescinded following a budget address given to the General Assembly in which Mr. Malloy noticed, apparently for the first time, that a “new reality” would henceforth require the General Assembly to pare back spending. Like the near approach of execution in the morning, the prospect of elections clears the mind wonderfully.
Seeking to meet the new reality, Mr. Malloy also has suspended $140 million in payments owed to acute-care hospitals, according to a report in CTMirror. Mr. Sharkey and President Pro Tem of the Senate Martin Looney feel the suspension of payments will unjustly affect hospital patients. Mr. Malloy feels that hospitals in Connecticut have been enjoying record profits. Why can they not survive with diminished payments from exhausted taxpayers? The optics, particularly in view of the upcoming elections, are not good: Progressives are supposed to be belaboring the greedy rich, not patients receiving acute care from kindly, overworked nurses and doctors. Really – what would Pope Frances do, not to mention his boss?
The hospital tax, first levied in 2012, was supposed to have generated about $350-million, and the funds were later to have been returned to hospitals as Medicaid payments. These payments were not forthcoming, owing mostly to the continuing death spiral of Connecticut’s economy. If the state fails to make payments this year, the cumulative non-payments since 2012 will amount to more than $283 million, Elliott Joseph, the president and chief executive officer of Hartford HealthCare, told The New Britain Herald: “This is a distressing development on two fronts. First, of course, because it makes it increasingly difficult for us to make investments in programs and services that benefit those we serve, especially the most vulnerable. But also because it shows the enormity of Connecticut’s continuing fiscal crisis.”
The outrage produced by hospital short-sheeting on the part of Mr. Malloy was, Senator Joe Marley said, bipartisan: “I think he expects the economy is going to come roaring back and everything will be saved. We face enormous deficits and continuing to squeeze the hospitals will not make that work. There is a pattern with this administration of starving providers. What’s going to happen if we’re not careful is they are going to start shutting down and then people will begin to look for state services. If you push hospitals beyond the brink, you haven’t solved a problem, you’ve created a new one.”
The Democratic caucus in the State House agrees, according to Speaker Brendan Sharkey. Not only was Mr. Malloy’s autocratic suspension of $140 million in payments owed to acute-care hospitals a smudge on the escutcheon of the General Assembly, which earlier had restored funds to beleaguered hospitals, Mr. Malloy was “negligent” in failing to direct his appointed university trustees to negotiate a contract the administration views as affordable. Mr. Sharkey’s caucus, one publication noted, “resented Malloy's public demand that they reject the proposed UConn contract, which was withdrawn by the university and union Friday in the face of its certain rejection by the legislature.”
Mr. Sharkey fumed, “It was only in the 11th hour when we were considering a vote that the governor weighed in. I'd also hoped that if the governor has (sic) concerns about these contracts that he step in a little bit earlier and not expect the legislature to solve all these problems at the 11th hour."
Mr. Malloy had upstaged a campaign gesture by Mr. Sharkey’s caucus to present themselves as responsible budget cutters – months before an election! People who live and breathe outside Hartford’s Capitol dome will find Mr. Sharkey’s mock outrage amusing. This was the Democratic dominated General Assembly that, during Mr. Malloy’s first term in office, conferred upon Mr. Malloy plenipotentiary powers to alter a budget substantially, following contract negotiations with state employee unions, without resubmitting the altered budget to Mr. Sharkey's caucus. The Democratic caucus was more than happy at the time to surrender its constitutional responsibilities to the executive office so that the fingerprints of its members would not appear on a budget autocratically increased by Mr. Malloy, who said at the time he would accept the bullet to save Mr. Sharkey the trouble of executing his constitutional obligations. This was the Democratic General Assembly that had shown itself incapable of balancing through spending cuts ANY of their budgets during EVERY fiscal year of Mr. Malloy’s administration.
Current protestations of wounded honor resemble the howlings of an insufferable moral paragon before entering a bordello; when the door shuts behind him, one may be certain that neither his ethics nor his honor nor his moral denunciations will suffer the least diminishment.