Don Williams is the President Pro Tem of the state senate and one of the whip wielders of Connecticut’s Democratic caucus in the General Assembly. The other caucus leader in the state legislature is Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, once a union steward, whose affections and personal history bind him to union interests. The adamantine bonds between legislators who arrive in the General Assembly on the wings of unionism and union affiliated organizations that bring home votes to them -- especially in cities like Bridgeport and New Haven, both of which were directly responsible for Governor-elect Dan Malloy’s victory in Connecticut’s recent gubernatorial campaign – are like those between ministers of the word and their flocks. Once a union steward, always a union steward.
Unions have been good to the Democratic leadership in the General Assembly, and the leadership has been good to unions. It will continue to be so – now with a vengeance, since the Republican Party, which has a lingering affection towards businesses, has lost its negotiating posture with the General Assembly leadership. For the first time in 20 years, A Democratic governor will be the helm of state, steering our faltering ship to safe harbor. Governor Jodi Rell, it must be confessed, was never much of a “firewall” preventing the Democratic dominated legislature from raising taxes and spending. She was, at best, a pause in the rush to establish the one party state now upon us.
When Mrs. Rell leaves office, she will be taking with her the “balance” she believes is so important to good governance. For all practical purposes, the state of Connecticut has now become Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven, all one party cities. Those cities have been in disarray for as long as they have been one party operations, largely because single party entities are responsive to sectarian rather than broad state interests.
Never-the-less, Mr. Williams is optimistic, according to an Associated Press report.
True, the Tax Foundation presents a bleak picture of Connecticut’s future: Our state and municipal tax burden is the third highest in the nation; Connecticut’s 2010 Business Tax Climate Ranks 48th in the country; the state’s property tax collections per capita is the second highest nationally, behind only New Jersey; Connecticut's gasoline tax stands at 41.9 cents per gallon, the 4th highest nationally; Connecticut’s return on every dollar sent to Washington is 69 cents, the third lowest nationally; tax freedom day, that point on the calendar during which the state’s taxes obligations are satisfied, arrives yearly on April 27, the latest in the nation; and, as if all this were not disheartening enough, Connecticut’s unfunded liability, at nearly $15.9 billion, is the second-highest unfunded pension liability per capita in the country.
"Make no mistake,” Mr. Williams said, “we face significant challenges as we dig out from the economic avalanche of the national recession. But to be working with a Democratic governor, to be sharing the same basic principles and ideas, will be an experience that none of us have had in 20 years."
Republicans, noticing some of the pledges made by Mr. Malloy during his campaign, also are looking on the bright side of things, for different reasons. Senate Minority Leader John McKinney believes “there is a workable majority in this legislature, of Republicans and Democrats, who believe that we need to reduce our spending, reform our big, bloated government and get jobs back in the state of Connecticut.”
Standing between Mr. Malloy and a possible coalition government of Republicans, Independents and traditional Democrats is what might be called the permanent government: state workers determined to maintain at all cost their status and political pull; hopeful media adepts who intend through editorials and commentaries to direct the new governor’s path towards fiscal responsibility and prudent spending; progressives hopeful that Malloy will at long last relieve the tax burden on middle class workers through measures that force the rich to bear their “fair share” of state “investments” – the usual motley crew.
Overarching all this are the gathering national storm clouds. The federal government is hobbling forward, under a crushing debt burden, towards a future in which it is likely -- for the first time in our nation’s history -- that our children’s prospects will be less promising than our own. We have eaten drunk and made merry, passing to them a multi-trillion dollar bill. Having pulled all the rabbits out of its hat during our lingering recession, a spendthrift federal government now has decided to clip the horns of a prospective deflation by inflating the currency. The classic definition of inflation is: too many dollars chasing too few goods. Inflation, during which printed money is pumped into the currency stream, lowers the purchasing price of the dollar. It is a hidden tax -- poison mainlined into the nation’s bloodstream.
Whether Mr. Malloy has the courage and good sense to find a way through this inescapable briar patch and plot a successful course for Connecticut that will secure its prosperity and well being relative to other competing states is very much an open question.
Time is short, the eternity of debt long.