Severe budget cuts to what their base supporters consider sacrosanct spell trouble this fall for the majority Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly. The budget crisis played out in the news media for months as adjustment after adjustment failed to fix the deficit problem. When they finally got it right (we think) last week, the end product was ugly and likely will be remembered in the November elections according to a venerable government and politics expert.
Prof. Gary Rose, chair in the Department of Government, Politics and Global Studies at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, says even having Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket may not be enough to stave off Republican gains in the legislature. “Many voters still vote straight [party] ticket. But there could be a good number of voters willing to split the ticket this year,” Rose said. In other words, vote for Hillary Clinton but then support ousting Democratic state legislators down the ticket.
“The fact is these budget cuts have consequences for people—for their lifestyles, for their employment. We still have the deficit issue. Put that all together and people will take it out on the party in power,” Rose said.
There is no doubt Republicans will be trading on the whole budget mess when they take on Democrats in the fall. Some legislators have already gotten the message and are bailing out. On that list is Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey whose sharp back-and-forths with Gov. Dannel Malloy were entertaining if not helpful in the budget process. Sharkey is not going out on a particularly high note.
State Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano is sharp when it comes to communicating a message (his press operation is particularly effective and accessible). He will no doubt urge GOP candidates to talk about just what happened to the state’s finances with the Democrats in charge.
Senate President Marty Looney has a superior knowledge of budgeting and a compassionate approach to making difficult decisions. However, his caucus has not always had a clear and understandable message to the press or the public.
In the end, Prof. Rose says, the budget dance could be bad news for the majority. “Will this effect voting behavior in the fall? It could cost some Democratic lawmakers some seats. Whether each Democratic supported the budget or not. They are seen as complicit. People take this personally.”