Tuesday, September 19, 2017

First The Veto, Then The Discussion

“First the verdict, then the trial,” says the Queen of Hearts in Lewis Caroll’s “Through the Looking Glass.”

First the veto, then the discussion, said Governor Dannel Malloy following a Democratic Party reversal of fortune.

After being shunted off to a dark corner during Malloy’s two terms in office, the Governor resolutely refusing to allow Republicans any decisive part in budget negotiations, Republicans on September 15 finally earned a place at the table. In fact, they stole the table when a Republican designed budget had passed in both chambers of the General Assembly.

Republican House leader Themis Klarides to Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz following passage of the Republican budget: "Now I know how you guys feel."

Following an ancient script, Democratic leaders successfully sequestered Republicans during budget negotiations and proceeded to hammer out differences with Malloy, previously having successfully affirmed protracted contract negotiations between Malloy and state employee union representatives that were, as expected, favorable to union interests. The governor, invested with plenary powers after Democratic leaders in the General Assembly had failed to present a timely budget, then tormented municipalities with the prospect of reduced state education funding, some suppose as  political leverage deployed against legislators who might resist a Democratic budget when Democrats finally got around to presenting a budget. Progressive Democrats in the General Assembly discussed a barrel full of tax opportunities: tolls, a tax on cell phones, a tax on gold-plated hedge fund operators, an inheritance tax on dead farmers that would prevent them from passing their assets to their children, an increase in the sales tax, the elimination of deductions and tax credits, backdoor tax increases -- even though early on Malloy had laid down an inflexible marker: Democrats must not lead with tax increases.

The progressive Democrat dominated General Assembly did little else but lead with tax increases. Both the Governor and Democratic decision makers in the General Assembly expected a leader-whipped legislature to pass an invisible budget no one had seen, possibly because it did not exist. The whipping failed, and not because Democratic whips failed to draw blood on Democratic backs.

Following passage of the Republican budget, Malloy’s strategy has now changed. His tone -- that of a harpy screeching through a megaphone -- never changes. The Governor deftly bowed to the importance of the legislative branch of government in a democratic republic:  “…this [the Republican budget] is a document that was passed out of the General Assembly, and I owe it to the legislators who voted for it, and to the people of Connecticut, to give it a full vetting.”  Then he brought down the hammer on legislative skulls: “… I understand enough about the bill already to know that I will veto it.”

Truly, Republicans understand enough about Malloy after two terms in office to know that he would veto their budget. Neither, they also suspect, will he incorporate into a union friendly Democrat budget any Republican ideas that, should they be adopted, would put an end to future deficits and future raids on so called “dedicated funds.” The notion that Democrats should recover legislative authority over budgets by setting state-union salaries and benefits through statute rather than contracts is beyond the ken of union bought Democrats. And the mere hint of incorporating into future budgets PERMANENT, LONG-TERM cuts in spending raises the hair on the necks of union intimidated Democrat legislators.

Democrats have resisted such solutions to the problem of recurring budget deficits because they wish to exploit the deficits so they may permanently increase spending. That is what has been happening in Connecticut for roughly a half century. And it was not Malloy’s predecessors who prolonged Connecticut’s recession by imposing on taxpayers the largest and the second largest tax increases in state history.

The two Democratic leaders in the General Assembly, both now belatedly calling for bipartisan solutions, are right on script. Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, the gatekeeper who effectively prevented Republicans from bringing their ideas to the floor of the greatest deliberative body in Connecticut, regards the budget affirmed by both Houses of the General Assembly as “unworkable.” Ditto President Pro Tem of the State Senate Martin Looney.

Surely, the Republican budget bill is not more unworkable than the non-budget the Democrat dominated House did not present to the General Assembly. Where was the much vaunted bipartisanship from July, when the General Assembly concluded its proceeding for the biennium, to the present? And how is bipartisanship advanced when both Democrat leaders of the General Assembly regard the budget passed in their chambers as unworkable?

When Malloy says he will veto a Republican budget that passed muster with both Houses of the General Assembly, but he is never-the-less willing to take seriously the concerns of Republicans, how can he possibly mean anything other than this: I do not regard the Republican budget as a serious measure, never mind that it passed two Democrat dominated chambers; nor do I regard the legislative majority that affirmed the budget bill as a serious legislative body – because the budget bill that passed is not my bill? Furthermore, it will be unworkable because I am determined to veto it.

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