Gov. Jodi Rell is being played for a sucker yet again.
Last time around, the governor refused to sign a budget that she could not in good conscience support, chiefly because the budget contained a progressive income tax feature long opposed by Republicans.
Republican leaders at the time argued that a progressive income tax was regressive on the revenue side. Working its way through a malingering recession, the state had experienced a sharp fall off in revenue because a) despite the absence of a progressive feature in the income tax, the bulk of revenue pouring into the state treasury was “contributed” by the state’s wealthier citizens, and b) revenue held by this group had been severely diminished by the recession, c) resulting in a net loss of revenue to the state.
One Democratic stalwart, nodding affirmatively to the analysis, suggested that only a broad based income tax could make the state solvent. This was George Jepsen, once Chairman of the Democratic Party, out of office at the time he uttered his blasphemy.
Jepsen was not handed his head on a plate by the usual promoters of a progressive state income tax, possibly because he was not a Republican. But he bravely spoke the truth and then disappeared into the political woodwork, reemerging during the present campaign season as a possible Democratic candidate for attorney general.
After the governor refused to sign the budget, she attempted to line item veto certain provisions of the bill, only to be told by the state’s omnipresent and omnipotent Attorney General Richard Blumenthal that she could exercise her line item veto only after having signed the budget, which she had declined to do.
Bottom line: The Democrats got their progressive income tax and a budget that did not seriously attack the deficit on the spending side.
Rell got the raspberries.
Fast forward to April, well past April Fool’s Day: Having announced she plans to leave office when her term has been completed, thus lame-ducking herself, Rell wanted to make appointments to the judicial bench, bow out gracefully and leave the Democrats facing a $6-8 billion deficit down the road apiece.
Serves them right too.
The Judiciary Committee is controlled by co-chairmen Michael Lawlor and Andrew McDonald. These two sluggers attempted about a year ago to alter radically by legislative decree the apostolic structure of the Catholic Church in Connecticut. They failed after Peter Wolfgang of the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC), some Catholic bishops and Republican legislators on the judiciary committee who did not fancy either Lawlor or McDonald as pope put up a stiff resistance.
But the legislators have had had better luck with Rell, the gubernatorial custodian of the constitutional powers of the executive office in Connecticut. She has not defended those powers effectively or aggressively enough. The so called “deal” made between Rell and Democratic legislative leaders limits the constitutional budget cutting powers of the governor, surrendering those powers to partisan Democratic Party hacks.
Both the Republican Party and the citizens of the nutmeg state have been unfortunate in their governors. Former Gov. Lowell Weicker was an income tax loving subversive Republican; Gov. John Rowland, at the beginning of his administration a battler, soon succumbed to the lure of negotiation and accommodation; and Rell is … well, she’s Rell.
Last week, it was announced that Rell and leading Democrats – among them Lawlor, McDonald and Speaker of state House Chris Donovan, formerly a union stewart – had reached a “deal” concerning the closing of some courthouses and several judicial appointments Rell wanted to make before she retired to Brookfield, leaving the state in the hands of the political raptors with whom she was negotiating.
Hearing a deal was imminent, three fourths of state taxpayers instinctively put their hand over their wallets.
The deal was that the deal makers all got what they wanted: No court houses would be closed, and there were broad hints bruited about that Rell’s appointments might slide past the ever watchful co-chairs of the judiciary committee, faux-popes Lawlor and McDonald. Lawlor acknowledged that some of Rell's prospective appointments were close friends of his.
It took only two days for the deal to unravel.
Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams said he would withhold approval of the judges until the entire budget was accepted, effectively holding the appointment of the judges hostage to budget approval: “I want to see the entire budget for 2011 resolved,’ Williams said, “not just to resolve it piece meal as to one branch, one agency… I think it needs to be part of the entire budget package. We need to resolve it all, not just one branch at a time.''
Dovovan, Lawlor, McDonald and Williams discovered in the interim that they could hold Rell’s judicial appointment hostage until they get want they really want -- a budget that does not incommode state unions that support all three Democrats, a hike in the progressive income tax, and Rell’s final humiliation.
Serves her right too.
The Democrats are well on their way to achieving all three goals.