There is an interesting dynamic playing out at the state Capitol this legislative session. For the first time in decades, there is a Democrat in the governor’s office and Democratic majorities in both the state House and Senate. Recipe for easy governing, right? Guess again. After a tenuous relationship with Democratic leaders last session, Gov. Dannel Malloy is flat-out at odds with them this year and Republicans see an opening.
One needs to look no further than the state budget to see the problem. Malloy’s proposal relies heavily on borrowing, changes the way local aid is allotted, alters higher education funding, largely eliminates the car tax and redefines the spending cap. It technically includes no new taxes but has a hefty increase in spending. Mayors and first selectmen of both parties hate it and Democrats in the General Assembly—although some are hesitant to say so publicly—don’t like it at all.
Consider other differing views:
• Malloy wants no tax increases. Democrats want more revenue—more taxes on income, real estate, corporations, cigarettes and more.
• The governor wants to reduce the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) used by the working poor from 30 percent to 25 percent. The EITC has long been the baby of Senate Majority Leader Marty Looney who will fight for it.
• Finance committee co-chair Sen. Toni Harp is on record as saying the state has a spending cap problem and a revenue problem.
• Some Democrats were not too happy Malloy decided to go it alone on gun violence legislation while the legislature’s post-Sandy Hook task force was still trying to wind up its work.
Republicans see an opportunity to play on the disconnect to offer an alternative to both the governor and the Democrats but with a real eye on 2014. Republican Party chairman Jerry Labriola says Malloy’s every move is based on political ambition and legislative Democrats are offering only more taxes and spending.
“Gov. Malloy thinks he’s the emperor, not the governor. He tries to portray himself as impatient and demanding results when in fact, almost everything he does is designed to get himself in front of the next news cycle,” Labriola said. “When it comes to political ambition, the governor takes a back seat to no one.”
Labriola clearly thinks this legislative session sets the stage for the next election. “The 2014 cycle is in his early stages. We [Republicans] have a chance to differentiate our party from theirs. The clear choice is 20 months from now.”
Democratic Party chairman Nancy DiNardo dismisses the differences between Malloy and legislative Democrats as a function of strong leadership. “We have real leadership in the executive branch and in the legislature. They all have the same goal of moving Connecticut forward. We’re still in the early stages of the legislative session and I’m confident that in the end, they’ll all come together and do what’s best for the state,” she said.