Friday, August 11, 2017

The Log In Malloy’s Eye

The “concession” agreement fashioned between Governor Dannel Malloy and SEBAC that recently was approved on a narrow partisan vote in the Democrat dominated State House and Senate was, most people would agree, beneficial to unions. The agreement was quickly adopted by rank and file state employee union workers and, following its passage in the General Assembly, union lobbyists vigorously cheered the union-favorable pact.

The concessions made by union negotiators during the secret conclave were the usual give-backs made by union leaders in the past. In return for temporary concessions – wage freezes that thawed after two years and increased thereafter by 3.5 percent– the SEBAC deal was pushed out 5 years to 2027, after which it might be re-negotiated or not. The two-year wage freeze was accepted by unions in exchange for four years without layoffs. The putative concessions, we are told, might save $1.57 billion over the next two fiscal years. However, nagging problems persist.

In the near past, cost-saving union concessions had been highly inflated. Presently, the state is staring in the face a $5 billion biennial deficit which, minus concession savings, still leaves the state with a deficit of $3.5 billion.  Connecticut’s bonds have been degraded by three major rating agencies. The state, endearingly called by one commentator "poor little rich Connecticut," is losing entrepreneurial capital to high taxes and excessive regulation. Large businesses that have sustained Connecticut’s reckless spending spree for years are either bolting the state, putting themselves on the auction block, or developing  plans to exit the state. Young people, tax reservoirs for years to come, are leaving Connecticut. Hartford, the state’s Capital City, has taken legal measures to declare bankruptcy. Connecticut’s progressive governor, author of the two largest tax increases in state history, has lame-ducked himself. And many reporters and commentators, late to the mea culpa ceremony of innocence, have only recently acknowledged that Connecticut has a spending problem and not, as previously thought, a revenue problem.

The answer to a revenue problem, most of us know, is tax increases. Been there, done that. The answer to a spending problem is permanent, long term spending cuts, a much harder political row to hoe. In Connecticut politics, the art of the possible becomes less possible as effective possibilities are thrown in the ditch, along with Republican Party budgets never considered by irredeemably progressive Democrat Party partisans. Republican budget ideas have not been rejected by Democrats because they have been tried and found wanting; they have been rejected – in fact, never given a hearing in the General Assembly -- because it is feared that, if adopted, they may successfully address the state’s chronic budget problems. One never fears the failures of one’s political opponents – only their possible successes.

The Waterbury Republican American tells us in an editorial that Malloy, following the back room union deal, gave the raspberries, as usual to Republicans: “The deal with SEBAC was opposed by legislative Republicans, who favored making statutory changes to state-employee benefits. In response, Gov. Malloy told News 8 WTNH, ‘This is a recipe for disaster for the state of Connecticut brought to you by the same party, the Republicans, who brought the first disaster, which was not properly funding the pensions.’ He was referring to Mr. Rowland and former Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Gov. Malloy complained to the Daily Beast about Mr. Rowland signing a 1997 master agreement with SEBAC that protected benefits for 20 years.”

Of course, the notion that Rowland and Rell are principally responsible for raiding pension funds is at best a useful political fiction. Getting and spending is, almost wholly, a legislative function, and pension funds were from its beginning treated as a legislative slush fund. In fact, for the first three decades of its existence, not a single thin dime was placed in the “dedicated fund.” In Connecticut, politicians speak of “dedicated funds” much in the way parents who do not wish to spoil Christmas for their children speak of Santa Claus; both are joyous inventions.

In any case, Malloy struck an unintentionally comic note when, after blaming Republican governors for having extended beyond their own terms in office unaffordable pension agreements with unions, the state’s fourth branch of government, Malloy promptly did what he had accused Rowland of doing  --passing on to weary and blameless future governors and taxpayers the burdens of his office. Who needs to pay bills for unaffordable union contracts when some future governor, poor sop, is waiting in the wings to assume the heavy load?

By the end of his second term as governor, Malloy will be free of his burden -- not so the state. Progressive Democrats have seen to it that their iniquities will be passed on to children yet unborn, none of whom cast ballots in elections.

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