Posturing on Budget Approaching the Absurd

Budget season at the Connecticut General Assembly (the spring of every odd year) consistently produces political posturing, give and take, before ultimately an agreement on a budget deal. The thought this year was, “the Democrats control both houses and the governor’s office so things should go smoothly.” Guess again.

Gov. Dannel Malloy made a “no new taxes” pledge during the last campaign and he appears to be sticking to it. But that means millions of dollars have to be cut from even the maintaining of services. So he did it. Everyone freaked because their ox was gored. Democrats and Republicans complained that social services and programs to help the most vulnerable citizens of the state—the safety net—were being hurt.

The projected deficit increased, the governor cut some more. The latest increase in red ink resulted in more cuts. This time education was hit the hardest. And so it goes.

Republicans demand that the legislature should come together and craft a plan. Democratic legislative leaders point out that there are only three months left in the fiscal year and besides, the deficit is still less than one percent of the entire budget that would trigger a statute requiring the legislature to act.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, a reasonable Republican, issued a news release demanding to be part of the process and not waiting until the one percent threshold is reached.

A day later, as if we didn’t get the message from Fasano, GOP Party Chairman Jerry Labriola was out with a release demanding the same thing. Only this time he made the mistake of saying it’s time to listen to “Republican ideas.” The problem is, there aren’t any Republican ideas, at least none that have been floated publicly. The Republicans have not crafted an alternative budget and don’t have any plans to so.

Nonetheless, Fasano authored an op-ed stating his party’s case.

Democratic Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey appears ready to go rogue on Malloy. Faced with constituencies that depend on programs Malloy proposes to cut, Democratic lawmakers are having a collective nutty. Sharkey has pledged to heave Malloy’s proposal overboard and steer the sinking ship himself.

The ship is sinking because even if the House Democrats restore the cuts and find a way to pay for it (taxes), they can’t spend the money because they are jacked up against the constitutionally mandated spending cap.

While the Republicans demand that the spending cap be respected (there are all sorts of ways to circumvent it), Malloy clearly did not like Sharkey’s “I’ll do it myself” talk. He called reporters into his office Thursday to tell them his proposal is what the legislature has to deal with.