OP-ED: GOV. MALLOY’S BUDGET–IT’S UGLY, BUT IT’S BALANCED, NECESSARY, FAIR AND HE’S WILLING TO SAY IT THAT IN-PERSON

I have an op-ed opinon piece in today’s edition of the New Haven Register and the Stamford Advocate. Check it out:

Patrick Scully: Governor Malloy’s Connecticut budget is tough, but honest
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

By Patrick Scully, Special to The Register
PatrickJamesScully@gmail.com

IT’S ugly. It has the largest tax increase in state history. It has $1.88 billion in spending cuts and it needs $2 billion over two years in concessions from state employees to balance. There is no doubt that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal gores just about everyone’s ox.

But, there is also no doubt that it’s honest and balanced. Malloy’s willingness to stand by it and explain it is nothing short of a profile in courage.

Realistically, no one can claim that this spending plan is a surprise. Throughout the campaign, Malloy made it clear he would make the hard choices and impose whatever pain necessary to right the state’s listing fiscal ship.

He rebuffed claims he would be a pawn of the state employee labor unions because they supported him and may have made the difference in a razor-thin victory. He exposed as fantasy his opponent’s claim that the budget deficit could be fixed without new taxes. He tried to prepare those in state government for the major restructuring that was coming. Now — surprise! — he’s doing what he said he had to do.

Malloy easily could have proposed this nasty budget and then run and hid, throwing it in the legislature’s lap. Let’s not forget that before her last budget address was done, Gov. M. Jodi Rell proposed a budget adjustment that was $2 billion out of whack, and then was nowhere to be found afterwards.

Malloy has walked bravely straight into the territory of those who hate this plan and has explained and defended it. He spoke to a gathering of union members and leaders and was hammered for the size of concessions he’s seeking. He readily attended a meeting of the state’s automobile dealers and got pounded for the taxes in his plan on that group. He has not shied away from any media appearance and has 18 open forums scheduled around the state. He’s not going to get any love at any of them, and he knows it.

Malloy’s budget director, Ben Barnes, had the unenviable task of testifying before the legislature and defending the budget proposal, especially the tax increases. He got slapped around like an opponent of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.

It’s hard to explain to people why it is necessary to raise taxes on everyone’s income and on just about anything sold, bought or processed and the repair of anything sold, bought or processed.

But, Malloy and Barnes refuse to sugarcoat this mess or use the traditional borrowing, one-shot revenues and other smoke-and-mirrors gimmicks to avoid the consequences of previous fiscal choices. Malloy also refuses to decimate all state services or cut loose the safety net needed by the most vulnerable among us. Again, no surprise.

The days of financial fantasy in Connecticut are over. We’d all like to get into Mr. Peabody’s “Wayback Machine” and return to the fun and fruitful days of 2000–2001, when the state was flush with cash and state programs for just about every constituency didn’t have to worry about being funded. Despite Malloy’s extensive efforts to prepare people, the enormity of the state’s financial mess is still just sinking in.

Also refreshingly honest is Malloy’s willingness to admit he does not have all the answers nor that his plan is perfect.

After recently taking heat at the annual meeting of the East Hartford Chamber of Commerce about his plan to eliminate payments to municipalities for property taxes they can’t collect on manufacturing equipment, Malloy said: “We probably need to make some adjustments and that’s what the legislative process is for. … (The budget) is not perfect.”

Not perfect, but it is necessary, honest and balanced. And, Malloy is willing to listen to people, make adjustments and own it. This thing is a pig, and he is unwilling to try to put lipstick on it.

Patrick Scully is a communications consultant and former director of communications and media for the state Senate Democrats. Write to him at 18 Orchard Brook Drive, Wethersfield 06109. Email: PatrickJamesScully@gmail.com.