Sunday, October 15, 2017

Malloy, Odd Man Out

Just a gigolo, everywhere I go
People know the part I'm playing
Paid for every dance
Selling each romance
Every night some heart betraying
There will come a day
Youth will pass away
Then what will they say about me
When the end comes I know
They'll say just a gigolo
As life goes on without me

Approaching the end of his second term as Connecticut Governor, Dannel Malloy has been bounced from the budget negotiating room. In some quiet corner of the Connecticut political barracks, Republicans must have been murmuring to each other, “How does it feel?”

Immediately following his installation as Governor, Malloy sent all the Republicans in the General Assembly to Coventry – not Coventry, Connecticut of course. The expression “sent to Coventry” originated in 1640, during the civil war in England, when captured royalist troops were sent to Coventry, a strong Parliamentarian town. The expression means that those “sent to Coventry” have been shunned and ostracized. Once Malloy had captured the gubernatorial office, he and the Democrat dominated General Assembly had no need of Republicans – who were shunned and ostracized by the ruling party.

Fast forward to 2017: Malloy vetoes a bipartisan budget – in fact, the only budget yet approved by the General Assembly -- and assumes plenary powers. Until a budget is approved by both houses of the state legislature and is signed into law by the Governor, Malloy will rule by edict.

The Malloy budget shifted state educational funding from so called “rich” to so called “poor” towns, abruptly leaving 28 municipalities in Connecticut without any state supplied educational aid. Moreover, the towns were to absorb the additional expenses without being given by the state compensating authority that would allow them to adjust to the shocks; no effort was made to reduce crippling state educational regulations. Racked by Malloy, municipal leaders began to howl. The Malloy budget also taxed hospitals heavily because the state once again had been running a deficit and, as Malloy’s budget guru Ben Barnes earlier had said, internally quoting notorious bank robber Willie Sutton, “That’s where the money is.” A number of progressive schemes for increasing taxes had been ventilated within the Democrat dominated General Assembly, but such efforts – particularly one involving a tax on the state’s redundantly rich hedge fund managers – had been shot down by Malloy, who several times had eschewed further tax increases after he had imposed on Connecticut the largest and second largest tax increases in state history. Malloy also had concluded contractual deals with state union workers that were, as usual, favorable to unions, in support of which he had in the near past participated in strike protests. The favorable contracts were extended to 2027, hobbling future governors who could not, under the terms of the Malloy-SEBAC deal, lay off state workers in an attempt to cut costs until the contracts expired.

Last May, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch cut Connecticut’s credit rating, making Connecticut one of the lowest rated states in the country; only Illinois and New Jersey were worse. Companies formed in Connecticut have either departed  or moved executive offices out of state; and most recently a Hartford paper protested loudly in an editorial, “5 Connecticut Census Numbers That Should Scare Your Socks Off,” that Connecticut was flirting with disaster. The state was losing its tax “seed corn” which, in the future, would create deeper and more intractable deficits: “The U.S. Census Bureau's annual estimates of migration among states show that Connecticut gained 75,586 1-and-older residents from other places in the country but shed 112,914. That's 1.05 percent of that age range, trailing only Alaska, Illinois and North Dakota. And the net loss is a huge jump from last year, up 10,982 — more than 41 percent.”

Against this dark background, Democrat and Republican leaders are now meeting, out of view of the public, to hammer out a budget agreeable to leaders in the General Assembly, and everyone involved, save Malloy, has eyes fixed on the upcoming elections in November. Progress, leaders on both sides of the political barricades have said, is slow but steady, and it is nearly certain that the final bipartisan budget product will depart from the Malloy budget, which has never been acceptable to either Democrats or Republicans.

Malloy has been excluded from the budget deliberations. When the lame-duck governor protested a few days ago that the talks were not proceeding quickly enough, Republican leader Len Fasano erupted: “The governor’s daily press conferences and snide comments from the sidelines are extremely unproductive. The governor has been nothing but an impediment to the budget process, and it has been helpful to remove him from our conversations. I appreciate and respect the efforts of Democrat legislative leaders who have been willing to work together in truly bipartisan negotiations and have [had] thoughtful and productive policy discussions in recent days.”

Assuming Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly can cobble together a budget satisfactory to each caucus, they still will have to secure enough votes to overcome a possible Malloy veto. Malloy has yet to come to terms with the inevitable: No one is indispensable, and when you have self-terminated, life goes on without you.

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