Monday, May 21, 2012

The Dovovan-Williams Jihad

Speaker of the state House Chris Donovan and President Pro Tem of the state Senate Don Williams have been closeted together discussing two bills: a jobs bill pushed by Governor Dannel Malloy that appears to have bipartisan support in the General Assembly and Mr. Donovan’s signature minimum wage bill.

Mr. Donovan, running for the U.S. Congress in Connecticut’s 5th District, dearly wants to push his bill raising the minimum wage 50 cents over two years through the General Assembly, and to this end he announced last week that he intended to attach his bill to a budget implementer.

After meeting with Mr. Williams for a little more than an hour, Mr. Donovan appeared to be uncertain which donkey’s rear he would attach his tail to, according to a story in CTNewsJunkie.

Mr. Williams, who can count up to 36 without stumbling, is convinced he lacks the votes in the Senate to pass Mr. Donovan’s minimum wage hike, a point he pressed upon Mr. Donovan sometime before the soon to be retired Speaker conditioned passage of the jobs bill in the House upon the passage in the Senate of his signature legislation. Mr. Donovan declined to present Mr. William’s bill in the House, and both bills expired in the last session.

Mr. Malloy – unlike former Republican governor Jodi Rell, a vigorous political campaigner –could easily  throw his support to former state Representative Elizabeth Esty, the wife of Daniel Esty, the governor’s Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

At the Democratic nominating convention, Mr. Donovan rolled over Mrs. Esty, winning the 5thDistrict nomination by 64 percent of the vote, marshaling 216 votes to Mrs. Esty’s 66. Both Mrs. Esty and Dan Roberti, who garnered 54 votes, qualified to campaign against Mr. Donovan in a primary. The delegate count likely encouraged Mr. Donovan to continue his efforts in persuading Mr. Williams to bring up the minimum wage bill in the Senate.

The introduction into the Senate of Mr. Donovan’s bill, assuming the numbers argue against it, is a politically charged affair. There are compelling reasons to vote against the bill: Minimum wage hikes artificially increase the price of labor, and the price of labor figures in the calculations of small businesses that tend to hire minimum wage workers. Beyond a certain point, businesses operating on a slender profit margin and forced to pay what may be for them an insupportable wage will accommodate the state ordered hike in wages by cutting back on hiring those affected, mostly young people entering the job market for the first time. Businesses that cannot make the cost saving accommodations will go out of business. In the long run, these compelled choices will not invigorate business activity and job production. Should Mr. Donovan’s minimum wage bill pass, Connecticut’s minimum wage will be the highest in the nation. In the long run, Mr. Donovan’s signature minimum wage bill sends to businesses considering moving into the state and instate businesses considering expanding a message that frustrates current efforts to prime the job pump.

In the short run, minimum wage hikes are campaign boosters, a staple political product of the fevered progressive on the make. In the long run, we are all dead. The long run is for chumps; it’s the short run that gets you elected and re-elected, particularly in a one party state in which left of center Democrats depend upon unions to prime the voting pump. Caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, Democrats in the General Assembly would rather not commit themselves publically to a vote on the minimum wage bill.

At the moment, Mr. Donovan is focused on attaching his bill to some viable legislative vehicle. Using a budget implementer to ferry his minimum wage hike through the General Assembly, some Democratic legislators think, might jeopardize the more politically attractive bi-partisan jobs bill. Asked by the reporter for CTNewsJunkie whether he thought such a prospect was likely, Mr. Donovan replied, “We’re hoping to make everybody happy. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Mr. Donovan has already loosed his moorings to the tattered remains of what some benighted traditionalists still insist on calling the Democratic Party’s moderate “vital center.” There is no center, merely epicenters colliding with each other. Mr. Donovan purports to represent the future of state Democratic Party politics, solidly union connected, firmly centered in the state’s cities, unapologetically progressive and rather impatient with the stuffy old guard of the Democratic Party.

The new dawning day needs a new vanguard. Mr. Donovan is prepared to lead. Followers will find the welcome mat put out before the door to utopia.

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