It was Napoleon who remarked, when the Pope of the day objected to his take over of Italy, that God was on the side of the big battalions. And when Pope Pius XII criticized Stalin, the atheist totalitarian asked menacingly: How many battalions has the Pope?
Numbers in legislatures are determinative.
Governor Dannel Malloy, borrowing a page from President Barack Obama, has often been heard to complain during his 17 Town Meetings that he had inherited seemingly insoluble problems from previous governors and legislatures. The bitter medicine he was proposing as a solution to massive budget distortions certainly would not be pleasant, but it was necessary; so, open wide and swallow.
Dr. Malloy’s medicine includes tax increased across the board of more than $1.4 billion and cost savings to be rung out of the hides of state union workers in the amount of $2 billion.
Those who heard Mr. Malloy at the town meeting swallowed hard but gave some indication, at least in Mr. Malloy’s understanding, that they were willing to accept his proposition. And so the governor raised taxes and inserted in the budget, now adopted by the Democratic controlled General Assembly, a place holder cost reduction figure he expected to recover from unions in negotiations not completed at the time the budget had been passed.
If Mr. Malloy does not receive from union negotiators the concessions he needs to balance his book, he has promised to spank them with Budget B, which will be very nasty.
The tax hikes – big surprise! -- are such as will provide Mr. Malloy with a budget surplus of $1 billion. A surplus is, by definition, excess tax money over and above the amount necessary to pay for budgeted state spending. There may have been people in the crowds that greeted Mr. Malloy’s bitter prescription who might have understandably resented the $1 billion surplus which, had it been returned, might have stimulated Connecticut’s economy, now languishing in intensive care. Their voices were not heard as the Democratic majority in the General Assembly and Mr. Malloy crafted their budget.
Democrats in the General Assembly argued against protesting Republicans that the tax overcharge – that is what a surplus is – was necessary because former legislators had squandered “rainy day” funds to pay for their improvident spending. The irony that the legislators making the argument were the very legislators who had improvidently squandered the funds in the first place was lost on humorless Democrats in the General Assembly who were once again overtaxing the people in Mr. Malloy’s Town Hall meeting -- so that they could produce a surplus in a time of great need and misery as a fix to their improvident spending habit.
In his message to the House that quickly passed his budget hours after it shot through the Senate – numbers are determinative -- Mr. Malloy characterized his budget as “balanced and honest,” containing “none of the gimmicks that helped get us into this mess. It will provide the stability we need to foster much-needed job creation – which is everyone’s top goal.”
Mr. Malloy placed on his own shoulders the burden of reaching “an agreement with our fellow state employees [state union members] and to present it to the legislature for ratification. I remain hopeful that we’ll get there. If we don’t, I remain committed to presenting an alternative budget to the General Assembly in the next couple of weeks. Make no mistake: come July 1, Connecticut will have an honest, balanced budget in place. No smoke, no mirrors. A solid foundation for the future.”
The Malloy budget increases taxes, will realize a surplus of $1 billion, and has in it a savings gap of $2 billion that Mr. Malloy, now dependant on the kindness of strangers, hopes to recover from state union members. There are those within the Democratic caucus who doubt that Mr. Malloy will be able to squeeze approximately $20,000 per year from state workers; if so, the expected $1 billion surplus may provide the governor with a cushy default position.
The expected surplus is smoke, it is mirrors. And it’s the oldest budget trick in the in the usual bag of tricks deployed by the permanent government to save itself the trouble of spilling Democratic blood on the floor of the General Assembly. Permanent budget cuts of $2 billion stretching out for 20 years and temporary tax increases might have provided a solid foundation for the future. The Massachusetts legislature, overwhelmingly Democratic, is providing for the future by attempting to end collective bargaining, which impoverishes taxpayers and enriches the overbooking class.
The Malloy budget is more of the same: permanent tax increases and -- after the unions have finished with him – temporary cost savings.
When all the smoke has cleared, when the usual mirrors have been pack away for another day, voters in Connecticut should take note: If you want a different result, vote in a different government.