Saturday, September 16, 2017

Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie, 
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie! – “To A Mouse,” Robert Burns

Democrats, it should be obvious from the numbers, have been losing their grip for a while. The State Senate is now split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, 18-18; in the State House, Republicans now are four seats away from a tie. It was the lack of an edge in the Senate that provided a crack through which Republicans were able to pass their budget through the chamber, three moderate Democrats – Paul Doyle of Wethersfield, Gayle Slossberg of Milford and Joan Hartley of Waterbury – voting with Republicans against a status quo Democratic getting and spending plan. The Democrats, in their own plan, got too much, spent too much, as always, and were inattentive to the signs of the times.

When Republican Leader in the House Themis Klarides said that the Republican budget would pass if it had a fair hearing in the General Assembly, she was right. Of course, Democrat temple guards – Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, and President Pro Tem of the Senate Martin Looney – were determined to let the Republican budget die in a General Assembly hallway without a fair hearing.

By mid-September, months after Democrats were supposed to have presented a budget to their fellow Democrats in the Democrat dominated General Assembly, the state employee union controlled Speaker of the House, Joe Aresimowicz, was found huffing and puffing in an op-ed, trying, as best he could, to sell a much taxed, overpriced clunker to his  caucus.

Instead of leading with rational solutions to recurring deficit problems, Democrats led with their fists. Aresimowicz was positively pugilistic in his op-ed column. Speaking mostly to a wavering Democratic caucus, Aresimowicz told the troops they could either “vote ‘yes’ on a budget,” wholly a Democrat Party product, or they could vote ‘no’ and support the October 1 executive order that will financially crush our cities, towns and local schools.” That executive order was a collaborative backroom product worked out between a highly unpopular lame-duck governor and the Democrat leaders in the House and Senate, Aresimowicz and Looney. Life under Malloy’s executive order, Aresimowicz wrote “will have a chilling impact on our local schools and could leave permanent scars … on children, parents, business owners and the elderly…”

On September 16th, the Senate voted for the Republican budget package; hours later, the House followed suit.

Asked whether his vote in favor of the Republican budget plan might cost him his seat in the State Senate, Doyle responded that the vote was the most difficult of his career: “Yes, I may be risking my political career. My party may not be happy with me. But to be honest, I don’t care. I’ve been up here for many years. I believe I’ve always been a man of my word. … I have to vote what my conscience tells me. … I’m prepared to risk it all.’’ In the east atrium of the Capitol building, state hero Nathan Hale, who regretted he had but one life to give for his country, breathed a quiet assent.

When the House at 3:00 in the morning also voted 77-73 in favor of the Republican budget, an eerie silence descended on the chamber, General Assembly members no doubt listening for the whisper in the whirlwind. A Facebook wag wrote – here was proof God was a Republican. Lobbyists were gob smacked. Malloy promised a veto. Among other reasons, Malloy vowed he would veto the General Assembly vote because the Republican plan required UConn employees earning more than $100,000 to pay more for fringe benefits, required full time professors to teach an additional course, and eliminated tuition waivers for UConn employees. Malloy’s far more onerous executive order would have zeroed out state education funding for dozens of municipalities, but then the executive order was always intended to be, as it appeared in the Aresimowicz op-ed, a police baton with which to beat backsliding Democrats in the General Assembly.

Democratic moderates in the House and Senate simply tied their courage to the hitching post and did the right thing, infuriating Dannel “The Hammer” Malloy who, Samson-like, is now prepared to use his veto power to pull the roof down upon the heads of the Philistines, i.e. anyone who disagrees with the best laid plans of Democratic Party leaders.

Whether the roof will or will not rain down on Democrats during the upcoming elections may depend on whether a contingent of moderate Democrats can summon the courage to overcome the veto of a governor about to pass into history.

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