Quite suddenly, the enabler for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) in Connecticut’s General Assembly, Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, has contracted a wicked case of ants in his pants.
The state legislature closed for official business on June 7, nearly two months ago. But Aresimowicz, the gatekeeper in the House without whose approval no bill may reach the floor of the General Assembly, dawdled delinquently and brought no budget to the floor. In truth, the Democratic leader in the House had no budget bill in hand to present to the legislature – none. Aresimowicz was waiting for state employee rank and file union members to vote on a closed door deal being shaped by Governor Dannel Malloy and union chiefs.
The fiscal year ended on June 30. Democrat legislators still had not produced a budget. In the meantime, Republicans – who had fashioned a budget that had been vetted and pronounced balanced by the State Budget Office – were unable to get their budget bill to the floor so that it might be discussed and voted upon. Unlike Democrats, Republicans were budgeting for the Connecticut’s imperiled future, Republican leader in the Senate Len Fasano later would say.
The obstacles were Aresimowicz, presently employed by a union, Malloy, who in the past has marched with union protesters on strike-lines, progressive legislators in the General Assembly agitating for increased taxes on remaining wealthy taxpayers in the state who had not yet bolted for less predatory states, those in Connecticut’s media who prefer the current ruinous status quo, and confused and unorganized taxpayers, soon to be plundered again by the progressive legislative proponents of the largest and second largest tax increases in state history.
The Democratic Party “resistance” was waiting, as usual, upon unions to make “concessions.” The SEBAC-Malloy-Aresimowicz fait accompli would not come out closet, closed to both the public and Republicans, until July 18.
So – wait for the concessions.
The SEBAC-Malloy-Aresimowicz-progressive Democrat deal resembled to a “T” past SEBAC-Malloy- Aresimowicz-progressive Democrat deals. So pro-union was the deal that it passed a vote by rank and file union workers in the blink of an eye. The deal guarantees annual raises of three percent per year after three years; it includes a no-layoff provision; maintains a rule that allows automatic passage of union deals without a vote after 30 days have passed following the presentation of budgets to the General Assembly; and – most importantly – pushes out the termination of the agreed healthcare and pension contracts until 2027, by which time Malloy, Aresimowicz and not a few retired union leaders may have shaken the dust of Connecticut from their feet and become residents of Florida. Former Governor Jodi Rell, once thought to be a firewall that prevented union arsonists from burning down the house, is now a citizen of Florida. The Republican alternative budget addresses all the issues listed above; the prospective Democrat non-budget confronts none of these problems, mostof which are a drain on revenue collection.
This is the status quo in Connecticut: tax increases, spending increases, business flight and reduced revenues – which, of course, necessitate higher taxes, more spending, more business flight and diminished revenues. At this remove, no one any longer remembers former Governor Lowell Weicker’s prophetic campaign prediction: “Raising taxes in the middle of a recession would be like pouring gas on a fire.” The recession that greeted Weicker when he became governor – and instituted an income tax – lasted more than a decade. The current recession that wafted Malloy into office officially ended in June, 2009 – but not in Connecticut, where the tax-increase fire still burns in the basement.
While Democrats in the General Assembly have yet to produce a budget, they are now using the state crisis they have caused to force Republicans who do not support the state's deadly status quo to lend their shoulders to push forward a union deal that will secure so-called union “concessions” to 2027 – thus preventing future governors and future legislators from successfully attacking the real causes of Connecticut’s discontent.
The Democrat Party is now the last refuge of those who wish to maintain the status quo. The Republican Party has become the reform party.
Suppose, critics of the proposed contracts ask, there is another recession. Given the present SEBAC-Malloy-Aresimowicz fait accompli, what can a future governor or a future legislature do to mitigate the ruinous consequences of a third recession? Answer: nothing. Bound by inflexible, court enforceable contracts, future governors and legislators will not be able to reduce unionized benefits, modify salary increases or curtail contractual layoff protections until the ironclad contracts elapse in 2027. A Republican reform – so far resisted by union employed Aresimowicz, pro-union governor Malloy, and progressives in Connecticut’s status quo General Assembly – would allow the legislature to escape the contract trap by changing from contract to statute the means government may use to snatch democracy from the jaws of SEBAC.