Gov. Malloy, Lawmakers Need to get Over Themselves, Solve Budget Mess

Ever since before the General Assembly did an emergency fix of the new state budget before the legislative session ended earlier this year, Republicans have been carping to get in on the process. At the time, they even offered alternative ideas to restore cuts made by Gov. Dannel Malloy. Fast forward to Monday morning. They now have a seat at the table and they’re still complaining. If the people who are supposed to solve these problems are actually going to solve them, everyone involved must get over themselves and get to work. Starting now.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano has issued somewhere north of 17 news releases related to the state budget, many of them demanding, imploring, reasoning and appealing to Democratic majorities in the House and Senate as well as Democrat Malloy to let the GOP in on the process of fixing the spending plan that was badly cobbled together with toothpicks and Bubble Yum. In just about every instance, his logic was sound.

Republican leaders Sen. Len Fasano, Rep. Themis Klarides.
Republican leaders Sen. Len Fasano, Rep. Themis Klarides.

Now all sides are to sit down Monday morning and all three (Malloy, Dems and Rs) seem to be doing their best to poison the process before it even begins. The invitation to participate was barely spoken when House Republican leader Themis Klarides complained that Democrats wanted Republican fingerprints “on the murder weapon” of whatever final product results.

So let me get this straight: Klarides has spent the last three months complaining Republicans were being shut out of the process. Now that she’s been given a seat at the table, she’s complaining she has a seat at the table. Connecticut’s collective head hurts.

Malloy meanwhile, has been boxed into the position of having to invite everyone who represents the people of state to sit down and talk. But he couldn’t do just that. After months of saying he’d listen to “serious ideas”—the inference being the Republicans aren’t serious—he says he’s having the Republicans in to “call their bluff.”

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey has seen fit to set the ground rules for the talks, obviously designed to make the Republicans look bad if they don’t agree to whatever Sharkey and company want. “We’ll have you in, but you’ll do this and this and this…or else,” is basically what he’s saying.

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey (l), Senate President Martin Looney.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey (l), Senate President Martin Looney.

The adults in the room seem to be Fasano and Senate President Marty Looney. Looney can’t stand to see the state’s safety net gutted by the governor and Fasano can’t stand to see a state budget that is so structurally deficient that it results in hundreds of millions of dollars being slashed month-by-month.

The Republicans do have the problem of appearing duplicitous in that they have a new-found religion on helping the most vulnerable in the state. They voted against the last budget (flawed though it may be) that actually restored cuts made by the governor that were similar to the ones the GOP are so concerned about now.

I may have buried the lead on this but…This whole situation can be boiled down to this: more money is needed to fund the programs the governor cut. Where does that money come from? Malloy says new taxes are out. But he has signaled he’s willing to have state workers be part of the solution. He has already delayed raises for state managers. (Although it doesn’t help Malloy had no problem giving big fat raises to his top peeps after his reelection last year.) Republicans have long called for state employee unions to cough up some more of their primo pay and benefits. Some Democrats have hinted they’ll accept that as well.

So this entire budget debacle might come down to Malloy—with Democrats and Republicans in tow—calling for state worker givebacks or layoffs. Before labor starts crying that they already gave enough, it should be pointed out that a good chunk of the savings from their last “give back” never materialized. Maybe we can start there.

If this already-damaged budget negotiation is to succeed, all sides need to stick their posturing in their pockets and get it done.