Monday, June 27, 2011

Donovan’s Plan C?

General Assembly Democrats – i.e. Speaker of the House Chris Donovan and Senate President Don Williams – have not decided firmly to give Governor Dannel Malloy extraordinary rescission authority to remake the state budget after the collapse of Plan A.

Repeating his offer to dominant Democrats in the legislature, Mr. Malloy has said that he would be perfectly willing to implement the dreaded Plan B should the General Assembly confer upon him what amounts to plenipotentiary powers.

But a rift has occurred within the legislature. Mr. Williams is toying with the idea; but his confederate in the House, Mr. Donovan, pleased to have stepped out of the way of the cannons when Mr. Malloy was begging state workers to accept Plan A, now seems to be puffing out his chest, welcoming the bullets.

Mr. Donovan has reminded Mr. Malloy that the General Assembly never agreed to confer upon him an expanded rescissionary authority that would allow the governor to shape the new budget without bothersome legislative interference.

Plan A was hammered out in a sweet, untroubled darkness behind closed doors, without the pointless interference of Republicans in the General Assembly, a process that won Mr. Malloy no friends among Republicans in the legislature.

Surrounded by friendly Democratic faces, Mr. Malloy had no need to romance Republicans. Mr. Malloy and the Democratic caucus rolled Plan A through the legislature without effective resistance, but now the Malloy-Williams-Donovan juggernaut hit an impenetrable wall of resistance in the form of a resolute state union.

The question before the House now is: Who rules – the Donovan caucus, the Williams caucus or Mr. Malloy?

Beyond that question lies a darker question: In politics, things happen in a certain way because prime movers have directed events, either openly or surreptitiously. And occasionally things are not what they appear to be. Successful politicians are those who can see though the public mask to the reality it obscures.

Mr. Donovan’s reassertion of legislative preeminence comes at a most inconvenient time for the besieged Mr. Malloy, whose reputation as can-do shaker and mover has suffered what ancient tragedy writers used to call "a reversal of fortune."

As the fiscal year clock ticks towards its appointed end, Mr. Malloy’s Plan B budget may easily be thrown into German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck sausage maker – which would allow union friendly forces in the General Assembly to shape a Plan C.

The new hybrid plan, some suppose, may include a further shift of “shared sacrifice” from taxpayers to tax consumers. Before Plan A collapsed, the Malloy administration dipped into a surplus to relieve state unions of carrying their previously arranged “fair share,” and it certainly is no secret that progressives in the legislature wish to shift the tax burden through the legislatures relatively new progressive income tax to those earning more than $200,000 per year. It has also been suggested that the fair share born by tax consumers may be mitigated by circumventing the state’s spending cap through means of a declaration of fiscal "exigency.”

If the time frame within which Mr. Malloy is operating is pushed beyond the end of the fiscal year, the game changes, and progressives in the legislature, even those who severely reprimanded state unions for failing to accept a beneficial deal, simply are not used to thinking in terms of cost cuts. The ways of taxation, to misquote Henry David Thoreau, almost always lead downward, especially in an economy tossed on stormy seas. The past few months have convinced some political watchers that downward is the only way progressives are willing to travel. Mr. Donovan and others may have a stronger hand in the new game.

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