Are Conn.’s Legislative Democrats Ready to Cross Labor, Social Service Advocates?

The special session of the Connecticut General Assembly is likely to be a case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object as the body tries to sort out a new, 2-year, $40 million state budget. The unstoppable force is a sort of coalition of social services advocates and labor unions. The immovable object is Gov. Dannel Malloy. Caught in the middle are the legislative Democrats who will be asked to toss important constituencies partially overboard in order to placate the governor and big corporations in the state that are threatening to hightail it out of town to places like, uh, Florida (aka “God’s Waiting Room”).

Malloy wants to rollback some $225 million in corporate taxes to appease the likes of GE, Aetna, Travelers and other big-shot companies. Putting aside for the moment the fact that any changes will likely be done in an implementer bill, Democrats will likely hold their noses and vote for some sort of compromise that will not cause their traditional base—labor and progressive advocates—to lose their marbles but will also throw a bone to the corporations.

Budget dollar sign

Such a balance is not easy to reach. Malloy wants a 1.5 percent across-the-board cut in spending and if the legislature won’t do it, he says he will. Of course when cutting spending that falls heavily on the most vulnerable citizens in the state, the goal is to have as little fingerprints on it as possible.

Some rank and file Democrats—many of whom have been traveling and doing other typical summer things—were caught off guard by Malloy declaring earlier this week that a deal was at hand. It may not be that easy particularly in the House where Democrats are all over the place.

Republicans remain on the sidelines, still trying to have some sort of impact on the final budget product. They’ve managed to balance their own alternative budget that relies on getting more money out of the unions—a nonstarter with the Democrats and the governor. They’ve also managed to cause a minor (and trivial) stir with an unartful comment about the Dems’ struggles.

The special session is said to be scheduled for Monday but the official “call” has not been sent out to lawmakers yet. The call sets the parameters as to what business can be taken up during the session. But don’t mistake that for a sense of order. There will be horse trading and backroom wrangling right up until it’s time to vote.