One-Time Revenues, Sniping Back and Forth Dominate Conn. Budget ‘Fix’

It didn’t take long for kumbaya to turn into kumba-NO! Two months ago when Republicans finally were invited to take part in talks to address the state’s budget mess, many may have been thinking, “It’s about time—work together and get it done.” Well, that didn’t last very long. Some very unpalatable ideas were floated then pulled back, Republicans walked out, a deficit mitigation plan was passed, and the requisite trash talk ensued. It’s just another day in political paradise.

The budget fix—$350 million in cuts combined with some smoke and mirrors—was passed this week mostly along party lines. It was a circuitous path in the first place. For the entire summer, legislative Democrats resisted having their GOP counterparts in on the budget negotiations. Their reason turned out to be sound—Republicans weren’t going to vote for the end result so why have them in at all?

From left, Len Fasano, Martin Looney, Themis Klarides, Brendan Sharkey
From left, Len Fasano, Martin Looney, Themis Klarides, Brendan Sharkey

From the department of “this is no way to run a railroad,” Democrats first floated suspending for one year the clean elections law that provides for public funding of state campaigns. A near mutiny ensued and the idea was dropped.

Then Democrats and Republicans talked about a retirement incentive program to save money. The problem is, it doesn’t actually save money and Gov. Dannel Malloy hates it. So that trial balloon quickly fizzled.

The end product that passed was a combination of one-time revenues and raids of other funds. That’s not the smartest way of balancing a budget. It’s like a family busting into the kids’ college fund and then relying on that small winning from a lottery ticket to pay the bills. Sure, it works on paper but then you’re in trouble down the line.

This is nothing new. From the days in the early 2000’s when The Shad was in the room for these budget fixes, smoke and mirrors were the norm.

Once the budget passed this week, the sniping began. Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey slapped around the GOP for not producing votes for the final plan. “…Republicans walked away because they were unwilling to compromise and insisted on trying to shut down our government until they got their way,” Sharkey said. “As a result, Republicans voted against restoring hospital funding and tax changes to encourage GE and other Connecticut businesses to grow here. After demanding to be given the opportunity to help lead, Republicans showed they were not up to the challenge.” Ouch.

Senate Minority Leaders Len Fasano lashed back. “…I will not stand for blatant lies. Everyone in the negotiation room knew the conditions for which we would come into negotiations…One of those main conditions was to implement structural changes to move Connecticut forward and create a stable and predictable budgeting environment…You agreed that you would fulfill that promise of structural changes during negotiations. Even when it became absolutely clear that you were not going to make those structural changes and we all agreed that there was no common ground for which we would supply votes for this budget, you continued to suggest we try. No one walked out on the negotiations,” Fasano said.

After the vote, it was clear that nothing has changed as far as state budgeting—one-shot revenues, raiding of other funds and political demagoguery rule.