Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Problems Lamont Will Not Solve In The New Year

For decades, the Connecticut General Assembly has been parceling out its constitutional powers to various political entities such as unions. Constitutionally, the legislative branch of our government, the House and Senate in Connecticut’s General Assembly, are supposed to have dominion over getting and spending.

This means that every dollar collected and disbursed by state government should be the province of elected General Assembly members. In most states, the salaries and benefits of unionized state employees are determined by legislatures – and NOT through contractual obligations presented to the legislature by governors colluding with union chiefs to benefit an undemocratic hegemony that such contracts tend to support and enforce. In addition to depleting the constitutional authority of the General Assembly, such contracts as have been arranged between Connecticut’s governors and unions throw dispute resolutions into the state’s third branch of government, the court system, and decisions made by courts are, by definition, NOT representative choices made by the legislative branch. No governor of recent memory has had the courage to say to a union-friendly General Assembly – the state constitution assigned you, the members of the House and Senate, the obligation of shaping Connecticut’s economic future, and this is a constitutional obligation you should not be renting out to unrepresentative political factions.

According to a September 2018  Truth In Accounting (TIA)  report -- which incorporates both assets and liabilities, not just pension debt – Connecticut, regarded as a sinkhole state, “only has $12.1 billion of assets available to pay bills totaling $81.9 billion… Because Connecticut doesn't have enough money to pay its bills, it has a $69.8 billion financial hole. To fill it, each Connecticut taxpayer would have to send $53,400 to the state.” In addition, “The state is still hiding $10.4 billion of its retiree health care debt. A new accounting standard will be implemented in the 2018 fiscal year which will require states to report this debt on the balance sheet.”

The promissory pension notes state officials have written to state employees should linger in the mind of nearly everyone in the state who is or is not averse to state employee unions as a loathsome fiduciary betrayal. Our pension debt has been on the ascent for decades – and contractual promises must be kept, so the courts tell us. Moreover, the courts will enforce contractual promises made by politicians who, many people may be surprised to learn, had not made deposits into the reserve set aside for paying down pension debt for the first thirty of its existence.

Apparently, elected state officials were treating state debt the way elected federal officials have been accustomed to treating the national debt – now cresting at about 22 trillion dollars. The national debt, British macro-economist John Maynard Keynes had whispered into the ears of politicians, is a debt we owe to ourselves; so no need to fidget about paying it off. And of course the intimidating national debt may be financed through the printing of devalued currency, an option not available to irresponsible state legislators who may discharge debts in one of only three ways: through bonding, revenue increases or spending cuts.

Having established a Connecticut pension fund that remained empty for three decades, state politicians, in succeeding years, have transferred to the General Fund payments that should have been secured in the state’s pension “lockbox.” And the same politicians have raided other so called lockboxes along the way, dumping their loot into the General Fund and disbursing the pilfered funds to advance the political interests of state politicians allied with the unions that benefit from their ministrations.

One Connecticut commentator heralded the advent of a new Lamont administration this way:  “Lamont and Malloy, similar on policy, much different in personality.” But if policy does not change, the state will be in for more of the same – because Malloy, who tagged himself as a porcupine, was blind as a deer to the predictable consequences of his ruinous policies. The 300 page apologia Malloy distributed to the media before he left office touting the high points of his administration --  the abolition of the death penalty, the institution of a poorly conceived “Get Out Of Jail Early” reform plan that involved the unearned release of some violent criminals, a ban on so called “assault weapons” after the Sandy Hook mass murder of young children, a hand of affection held out to gay people, including two of his close political associates, Michael Lawlor, now the state’s prison czar, and Superior Court Judge Andrew McDonald -- were social campaign blindfolds that served to prevent opinion makers from dwelling on his economic failures.

Malloy insists that McDonald was spurned by homophobic Republican General Assembly members for a position on Connecticut’s Supreme Court, a claim that seems highly improbable, since the presumed homophobes in the legislature did nothing to impede McDonald’s precipitous rise in state politics. This is a prime example, though not the only one, of the gubernatorial porcupine throwing his quills at his political opponents. Lamont, we are to suppose, will be a kinder and gentler Malloy. In matters of policy – the only matter that matters – the New Year will usher in a governor whom many regard as being more of the same, more Malloy minus the quills.

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