It was predestined to happen: Democrats suddenly are animated by a sense of urgency. Writing and passing a budget at the termination of Connecticut’s fiscal year on June 30, presumably with Republican legislative support, was not urgent because the deal concocted between Governor Dannel Malloy and state employee union leaders had not been presented to the General Assembly well in advance of the last day of the legislative session. Democrats in the General Assembly were unable to present a timely budget because – they had no budget to present.
First things first. State employee union negotiations between Malloy and SEBAC honchoes had not yet been completed. Democrats were waiting until the terms of the deal, approved a month later on July 31, could be baked into the biennial budget. Even then, Democrats did not present a budget to the General Assembly.
It was crucial for Democratic leaders to satisfy their permanent voting base by giving state employees salary raises following a temporary wage freeze. The Democrats also pushed out union contractual gains to 2027, which means that no future governor – pressed, as Malloy is, with unreasonable costs – may adjust contractual union gains by the usual means, salary and benefit decreases and layoffs. The Malloy-union deal also contained a no-layoff provision.
The Malloy-union deal passed muster with rank and file union members astonishingly quickly. Immediately after the deal had been affirmed by the General Assembly with virtually all Republicans in the state legislature voting no, Democrats began to get antsy.
By September, the Malloy-SEBAC deal now written in budget stone, Democratic leaders in the General Assembly – Speaker of the State House Joe Aresimowicz, President Pro-Tem of the Senate Martin Looney, and the usual partisan soldiers in the legislative body -- desperately wanted a quick vote on their spending plan. For months, Democrats had successfully spurned Republican budget ideas by refusing to bring for a vote in the General Assembly a balanced GOP budget that contained no tax increases and did not punish municipalities by forcing them to assume a third of state employee pension payments, a prominent feature of the Malloy budget. The Malloy administration had not offered to off-set the loss in state educational payments by reducing punishing and costly state mandates. The state pension payment pot – a “dedicated fund” -- had been plundered for years by revenue hungry legislators in the General Assembly.
This is nothing new. Republicans had not had a genuine voice in budget deliberations during the entire administration of lame-duck Governor Malloy, which is part of the reason for Malloy’s second lowest in the nation approval rating. The wounding rating was assuaged by national Democrat progressives, who twice elected Malloy to serve as head of the national Democratic Governors Association (DGA).
When Malloy needed a political whip to lash Republicans, Democrats who controlled the General Assembly obliged. Because SEBAC negotiations had not been completed before the legislature was to adjourn, Malloy was invested with plenary powers, which he used to punish successful municipalities by withholding state provided educational funds from so-called “rich” towns, transferring the assets to so-called “poor” towns, a progressive scheme that destroyed educational planning in the towns adversely affected.
Malloy – and his co-conspirators in the Democratic controlled General Assembly have now come to rescue towns from the disorder they propagated. Despite having numerous times declared that he would not raise taxes again, the author of both the largest and second largest tax increases in state history has recently announced that he would consider some tax increases.
Through raw political calculation, Malloy and his abettors in the General Assembly are now able to appear before voters in the upcoming elections as angels of light. The wounding tax increases will mitigate the pain caused by Malloy and his abettors. “Malloy Compromises Ease Some Pains,” the Hartford Courant gushes in a recent story. We have here a government of arsonists setting fire to the pants of potential voters and then promising to mitigate the damage by placing a call to the fire department. Mayor of Hartford Luke Bronin, former chief council to Malloy, has lent a hand to the political farce: “Bronin’s Dire Financial Warning.”
And what is it, pray tell, that might pull the Capital City’s chestnuts from the fire? Why, the Democrats' status quo plan to increase taxes – yet again – while arrogantly ignoring plans that might provide a long-term fix to Connecticut’s repetitive failures. It’s the spending, stupid. Virtually all the problems here cited could be fixed permanently if pension benefits for state employees were to be determined by statute rather than contracts negotiated in backrooms by state union leaders and their enablers in the General Assembly and the Governor’s office. Pension benefits are determined by statute rather than contract in all but 4 states, Connecticut being one.
Not for nothing did President Franklin Roosevelt nix federal employee unions because, as he so wisely said at the time:
“All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.”
Not in Connecticut though, where unions direct both the government calendar, state budgets and progressive Democrats.