Is Gov. Malloy Channeling Gov. Rell on Budget Mess?

Besides the fact that she was frighteningly in over her head in the office, Gov. Jodi Rell’s legacy is the $3 billion deficit she handed off to Dannel Malloy. In getting to that point, she repeatedly signed budgets and budget adjustments passed by the Democratic majority in the General Assembly that were completely out of whack. She even proposed a spending plan that was badly out of balance before she even presented it. They were slapped together with Bubble Yum and duct tape. The supposed “anti-Rell,”—Malloy—is in danger of heading down the same disastrous financial road.

There are only so many times you can bail out a boat that has huge holes in it. You might start throwing things overboard in the process. The people on the shore start doubting you can avoid sinking. Eventually, you’re in Davy Jones’ Locker.

sinking financial ship

It’s a better exercise to figure out how to fix things than it is to assign blame especially when there’s so much of it to go around. The Rell (actually, the Lisa Moody) administration was so courageous in its actions that it actually let the last budget of her tenure become law without signing or vetoing it. Not exactly a profile in courage.

Not unlike then, today’s Democratic legislative majority can be counted on to do its best, smoke-and-mirrors magic act to make things look balanced. Unlike then, the current problem is so bad that recent “look-over-there” misdirection fixes last only a couple weeks before they have to start over again.

The Republican minority back in the Rell years was more than culpable in the problems because they would simply vote against anything and everything without any attempt to offer realistic alternatives. It didn’t help remedy the problem and the only tangible result was a House makeup that allowed Laugh-a-Minute Larry Cafero to bloviate about “The Fightin’ 44.” Demagogic alliteration aside, Cafero went on to the noble job of clearing cash out of his office refrigerator.

There is a similar, although less obvious retreat on the part of the Republican minority now. GOP Len Fasano, certainly no Lou DeLuca, is sharp and insightful. But he is no more willing to deliver votes in his caucus than DeLuca. So what is the Democrats’ incentive to include him in budget talks? It’s been my contention that the Dems include the Rs if for no other reason, to share in the blame if a real solution is found.

So, back to Connecticut’s leader, Dannel P. Malloy. With Wall Street strokin’ out on the state’s fiscal outlook, Gov. Malloy is hunkered down with budget guy Ben Barnes and various other advisers, right? He’s crafting a plan of necessary tax increases and spending cuts to find a middle ground that while unpalatable, is necessary to fix the state’s budget, right? Guess again.

There were several Malloy sittings in New Mexico over the weekend where he is slapping around the Republican governor of the Land of Enchantment. Malloy, in his role as the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), is calling out Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, asking her to “come clean” on whether she would vote for Donald Trump if he got the GOP presidential nomination, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Malloy has gone all in on his DGA role. He fundraises across the country and has been a loyal surrogate for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Malloy did some heavy lifting before the New Hampshire primary, questioning Bernie Sanders’ commitment to gun control (Clinton got trounced). He also was a guest at President Obama’s State of the Union address.

Malloy became a darling of liberals across the country with his reelection in 2014 over Republican Tom Foley. It’s not that he won, it was how he won—embracing traditional Democratic values and issues, hugging Obama instead of running away from him. Malloy’s liberal cred is solid, no doubt. But he has been taking his show on the road instead tending to business at home. The optics in-state are awful. He may be the darling of the left nationwide, but his approval rating in Connecticut has tanked.

To be sure, Rell and Malloy have different reasons for playing hooky from work. Rell needed her “reading days” in Brookfield (no one has ever been able to tell me what that means). Malloy is out raising his own national political profile. Either way, no one is watching the store.

The state’s finances are a chocolate mess. The budget has come off the rails and headed into a cavern. The most vulnerable in the state are getting hurt in the process. The cuts the Malloy administration is making make no sense. It doesn’t help that Malloy won’t say, “We need more revenue.” He won’t propose tax increases but he has no problem signing a budget that has them. Curious.

C’mon, Gov. Malloy. The Democrats nationally can do without you for a bit. Come back to us and deal with the worst budget situation the state has seen since, well, the Rell administration.