Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The price of Comity: $15 Billion and Rising

Democrats have controlled the state legislature roughly since the Jurassic Period, while Republicans have had a lock on the governor’s office for the last three terms. This arrangement has benefited two Republican governors, John Roland and Jodi Rell, as well as state legislators, the preponderance of whom are Democrats.

The arrangement also helped former Governor Lowell Weicker, who left the Republican Party to run as an independent governor, in his battle to shove an income tax down the gullet of Connecticut tax payers. Weicker, it will be remembered, won office after having said that establishing an income tax would be like pouring gas on a fire.

Voters of average intelligence supposed at the time that Weicker was averse to the income tax that had been the central pillar of Bill Cibes’ gubernatorial campaign. As it turned out, Connecticut got Weicker, the income tax and Cibes, whom Weicker installed as his Office of Policy Management chief – not, it should be noted, to put out fires.

After the income tax battle was over, all the professional politicians in the legislature and Weicker kissed and made up. Three governors later, the fire rages on. Connecticut’s budget, $15 billion and rising, has more than doubled since the last Democrat governor, William O’Neill, left office. The figure above does not include bonding obligations, about $14.7 billion, a mini budget not included in budget figures.

Such have been the fruits of co-operation and comity between Democrat legislators and so-called “opposing” Republican governors.

George Bernard Shaw once said that every profession is a conspiracy against the laity. His quip would apply to the professional courtesies exchanged between Democrat legislators and Republican governors, Weicker included.

Into this Eden of professional politicians now slithers a snake, several snakes, in fact; for it would appear that some stalwart Republicans – Rell and her aide decamp Lisa Moody not among them – are no longer interested in co-operating with the present regime.

The recent mild mannered opposition of some Republicans to the present regime –represented in the governor’s office by chief of staff Lisa Moody, a notorious compromiser, and other co-operating and co-opted Republicans – gives some reason to hope that the tax and spending freight train that has for years run over the wallets of hard working Connecticut citizens may be derailed.

What Connecticut needs to lift it out of the doldrums is not an attack on sprawl. It does not need the illusion of a regional form of government, the progressive’s answer to strong towns whose citizens have successfully turned away swollen budgets in town referendums. It does not need to send yet one more liberal congressman to Washington, there to be stroked and schmoozed by corrupt beltway earmark king Rep. John Murtha.

What Connecticut needs to prosper in the 21st century is, in no order of importance, a strong principled Republican Party, a fiscally responsible Democrat Party, a statewide referendum to control costs and costly regulations, a ballot initiative that will lure representatives away from reliance on lobbyists and make them responsive to the people they represent, more sprawl (if by sprawl is meant an excess of business activity generated by low taxes and responsible regulation), less comity in the legislature, and a reinvigorated media that has the courage to live up to the journalistic principle stated by Joseph Pulitzer, after whom the coveted Pulitzer Prize is named, that good journalists “should have no friends.”

In the Republican resistance to Moodyism – the tendency to surrender half a loaf of bread to the opposition (soon transformed by muscular negotiation into a whole loaf) in return for crumbs – may be seen the first faint glimmerings of a principled opposition to business as usual.

The dawn begins to break.

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