Leading Democrats are not without ideas, but they are the old, tried and failed ideas. Rarely do Democrats mention the devil words “permanent spending cuts” in any of their political prescriptions. For nearly the entire Malloy administration, they have been desperately trying the usual fixes: check the battery, change the oil, don’t forget the filter, but the engine won’t turn over, and more taxes won’t make it go.
Democrat Jason Rojas of East Hartford, the finance committee co-chairman over at Spend Central, Hartford’s General Assembly, is certain, according to an item in a Hartford paper, “‘There's a pretty broad diversity of opinion’ among lawmakers about how to tackle the state deficit.” And of course, he’s right. The category “lawmakers” embraces both Republicans and Democrats, usually at loggerheads with each other concerning what ails the state and how best to fix it. But the ruling party – Democrats have controlled the General Assembly for a half century, and they have held the governor’s office for almost eight years – have not been willing to entertain Republican ideas during this little ice age; and so, we cannot reasonably assert that there has been a diversity of action, or even actionable debate, among lawmakers in Hartford.
Democrat legislators have had the political football in their hands for half a lifetime, and now that the state is wobbling on its pins, Democrats, in order to persevere politically, must be able to convince a majority of voters in the state that crumbling urban education, unsupportable high taxes, a regulatory incubus, business flight, the exodus of young people from the state to greener pastures elsewhere, and the dilapidated condition of Connecticut economic, social and moral house is the fault of President Donald Trump.
The chief problem is that Democrats are trying, as usual, to patch a deficit, when they should be trying to fix a state that for the past decade has been shaking off businesses, entrepreneurial capital and young workers pretty much the way a doused dog shakes water off its back.
The fewer jobs the state is able to produce through an expanding economy, the less revenue it has at its disposal. State revenue decreases along with a contracting economy. Unfortunately for Democrats – who have eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear – this is an inflexible law of getting and spending, i.e. budget making.
The great revenue river that in Connecticut used to rush foaming across the state, watering businesses, producing jobs, and fulfilling the sometimes extravagant visions of visionary Big Spenders at the Capitol, has been reduced to a trickle, because the feeder streams that used to swell that river of prosperity have been exhausted by thirsty legislators and – dare anyone say it – greedy unions, which in the age of Malloy, Looney & Aresimowicz have prevailed over greedy departing businesses, greedy CEOs, greedy retirees, greedy colleges graduates, all leaving the state at warp speed. In January of last year, Governing magazine reported that Connecticut was one of only seven states to have lost population, a datum that should send shivers down the spines of legislators who use their eyes to see and their ears to hear. Connecticut is one of a handful of states yet to recover from a recession that ended in the nation shortly after Mr. Malloy was hoisted into office.
There are two sets of politicians at the state Capitol. There are those who want to reform government, and there are those who want to reform everything else: driving habits, rising ocean levels, municipal government, the way schooling in the state is financed, border patrols, the precise amount of profits businesses should be able to realize without seeming to be unprogressive, a list as long as the road to perdition.
Here is a notice from state Representative Gail Lavielle so packed with explosive common sense it would shatter, in a good way, state processes that have led the rest of us to rack and ruin:
“CT's budget process is not friendly to taxpayers. I introduced 3 bills to improve it, and testified before the Appropriations Committee. They would 1) Require the legislature to project how much money taxpayers are able & willing to pay BEFORE it decides how it wants to spend it; 2) Require the legislature to implement the state's spending cap -- which is meant to protect taxpayers from spending more than they can afford -- and to include in it annual contributions to state employee and teacher retirement funds; and 3) Inform towns by April 1 each year about how much they will receive in education and municipal aid each year so that they can properly plan their budgets & propose them to taxpayers. None of this happens now. Who here, after all, is working for whom?”
One imagines Mrs. Lavielle’s bills will be quietly shelved by power-brokers Malloy, Looney & Aresimowicz. Whether or not the state is to survive over the next decade will depend upon the re-orientation of reform foreshadowed in Mrs. Lavielle’s legislative efforts. If the reform of government in Connecticut fails, the state will fail, and that failure will rest upon old political dogs unwilling to learn new tricks, legislators for whom necessary change is not an option who plod on in the usual way over the road most taken.