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Friday, October 20, 2017
Red Notes From a Blue State - Government By Gimmick: Malloy Republicanizes His Fourth Budget
Democrat and Republican leaders in the General Assembly announced they were
close to reaching agreement on a compromise budget, Governor Dannel Malloy
offered his fourth budget, Republicanized, some believe, to make it acceptable
to the “turncoat Democrat legislators” who had rejected Malloy’s third budget
and embraced a Republican offering, the only budget so far accepted by both Houses of the General Assembly.
Malloy pitched his
fourth getting and spending plan to querulous reporters as a "lean, no-frills,
no-nonsense budget,” inviting comparisons to his previous offerings,
which were, one is entitled to presume, fat, union-friendly, and replete
with the usual frills and nonsense. Malloy’s third budget factored in a SEBAC
deal that assures state union workers raises of 3.5 percent per year, following
a temporary 3 year wage freeze, until the expiration of union favorable
contracts in 2027. The SEBAC deal also prevents future Governors, Democrat or
Republican, from discharging deficits through lay-offs, the most overused
implement in Malloy’s own gubernatorial tool box.
Malloy’s fourth and
final budget may be a somewhat desperate attempt on his part to remain relevant
as the minutes of his final term as governor tick down to zero, a legacy
disappearance from the political scene in January 2019 does not mean that
Republicans will be deprived of a juicy political target when elections roll
around in November 2018. The Governor’s policies will continue to influence
state government long after he has faded into the political woodwork.
Author Don Pesci
rating has always been in the dumps, his personality prickly and on occasion abusive,
especially towards Republicans. Colin McEnroe, the Aristophanes of political
commentators in Connecticut, who miraculously remains untainted by conservative
notions, tagged Malloy as a porcupine in more than one of his columns, a
designation Malloy, during a rare confessional moment, haplessly pinned on
himself. This is not a man who has reached outside his own box to incorporate in
his thinking alien ideas, however fruitful.
In September, Malloy
and Democrat leaders in the General Assembly agreed to impose new tax
increases: a fee on ride share services and fantasy sports betting contests, a
surcharge on cell phone bills and the cancellation of $50 million in
indeterminate tax breaks, reduced in his new budget to $30 million. These
“unpopular tax increases” do not survive in Malloy’s fourth budget iteration.
Tax increases have become unpopular because Democrats have gone to the tax well
too often; Malloy is the author of the largest and the second largest tax
increases in state history.
Malloy’s goals in
putting together his most recent budget, he said, were simple: to “eliminate
unpopular tax increases, incorporate ideas from both parties, and shrink the
budget and its accompanying legislation down to their essential parts.” Plucked
out of Malloy’s newest budget are pages and pages of implementer language. Big
spenders do not like implementers that actually implement their intentions.
Several months ago, Attorney General George Jepsen found that the
Constitutional cap on spending attached to then Governor Lowell Weicker’s
income tax bill was unconstitutional because legislators had never supplied
definitions necessary to implement the tax cap, an unfortunate oversight. In
his more contented moods, Malloy quite correctly might have called the quarter century
old dead spending cap a gimmick.
Malloy himself is no
stranger to gimmickry. For instance, when you eliminate a proposed tax
increase, you have not cut spending. When you overestimate prospective tax
receipts for the purpose of balancing a budget, you have not balanced the
budget; your overestimation will appear later as a deficit. When you sweep
dedicated funds, crack open lockboxes and dump the loot onto the General Fund,
you have successfully fooled all the people all the time. When you extend far into the future negotiated
contract terms favorable to unions, you have deprived future governors and
legislators of tools they must use to reduce future deficits; and in the
absence of permanent, long-term spending cuts, future deficits will be a
permanent fixture of Connecticut’s future budgets.
To read the rest of Don's commentary, visit his web site.