Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Aftermath

Following the rejection by state unions of a deal thought to be too good to be true, left of center columnists in the state were grievously disappointed

A columnist watching “Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's union concession plan fall into a death spiral” wondered “what decade some state employees think they live in,” and a Hartford paper mused that state union selfishness would cost unions “support in Connecticut.” Translation: The union’s resistance to a fait accompli firmly established by union leaders and Mr. Malloy will be noted in a few stinging editorials.

But there is something more amazing still than the rejection of Plan A, a budget scheme thought to be less painful for everyone than Mr. Malloy’s alternative Plan B: The state for some time has been permitting a few unelected union negotiators veto power over budgets passed by the legislature, and we have become so used to the ritual we hardly notice that extraordinary powers, constitutionally reserved for governors or legislators, has been delegated to a handful of union budget negotiators. Unions have become a fourth branch of government in Connecticut. And because the union vote is dispositive, it may be argued that unions are more powerful than any of the three branches.

It is through the thoughtless surrender of constitutional powers belonging by right to the three legitimate branches of government that states, at first obliging, ultimately become wards of unions.

So certain was the Malloy administration that Plan A -- pre-approved by dominant Democrats in the legislature -- would not be rejected by the union rank and file, that Mr. Malloy allowed himself to travel to Washington D.C. when the fatal vote was in process, an assurance that came crashing to the ground on bloody Friday when the final vote was tallied.

Just before the roof fell in on Plan A, one of the principle negotiators, sensing the need of a scapegoat, petitioned Attorney General George Jepsen to sink his teeth into the Yankee Institute. Jepsen adroitly passed that political poison pill to state auditors.

Plan A did not fail because its critics were shuttling incorrect assessments to rank and file union members. The union members who voted down Plan A had been fully propagandized by union leaders who, seemingly, wanted them to approve the lesser of two evils. They voted against the plan because they felt, implausible as it may seem, that the plan was not in their best interest. And in the end it was the interest of a narrow – one might almost say narrow-minded -- political faction that determined the general interest, a turn of events that will continue until the legislature reasserts its authority and finds some means of readjusting the horse and cart so that the horse leads and the cart is pulled in a direction that benefits the general interest of the whole state. The union voting system, badly in need of reform, is a Rube Goldberg contraption that only a rocket scientist could pretend to understand.

Speaker of the House Chris Donovan’s political ambition was one of the temporary casualties of the collapse of Plan A.

Mr. Donovan, once a labor and community organizer, had intended to announce his intension to run for the U.S. House in the 5th District but patriotically put off the announcement when some units of AFSCME voted against Mr. Malloy’s attempt at shared sacrifice. When it was feared Plan A was doomed, Mr. Donovan said he felt his proper place was in the General Assembly. Until that moment, many suppose, Mr. Donovan had been careful to keep his fingerprints off union negotiations, a posture he likely will abandon in the near future.

Mr. Malloy’s “shared sacrifice” has taken an inordinate bite out of taxpayer wallets. The bite taken from state workers, mild by most accounts, has diminished during the negotiation process, relieved in part by an artificial “surplus” tucked into the budget. A re-negotiation led by Mr. Donovan in the House and Speaker of the Senate Don Williams, the unions may hope, will reduce it further.

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