Conn. Dems Now Stuck with Budget Choice They Tried to Force on GOP

It was either a shrewd move or gigantic risk. Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly had a budget and they gave Republicans a choice: either support it or you’ll be stuck with the draconian cuts Gov. Dannel Malloy was about drop on cities and towns. Well, the strategy failed and failed spectacularly. Now it’s the Democrats on the hot seat. Support the Republican budget that actually passed by overriding a Malloy veto or they’ll be stuck with the unsparing cuts.

How did we get here? As The Hanging Shad predicted the day after Election Day 2016, three Democratic senators bolted their caucus, refused to support its tax-increasing spending plan and supported a Republican budget instead. The momentum carried over to the House where enough Democrats joined Republicans to pass the budget there as well.

Gov. Malloy has pledged to veto the now bipartisan spending plan.

Prior to all this, the Democrats set up their strategy as a choice between their budget and the vicious, decimating reductions in aid to cities and towns the governor would have to make as the budget stalemate continued.

Now the huge, astronaut-type clodhopper is on the other foot. With a Malloy veto, it’s the Democrats who can either override the veto or face the same cuts the governor will make.

It was a pyrotechnic debacle on the part of the Democratic leadership and more specifically, the caucus staff. Senate Dems caucus members were already upset that staff was packing the Democratic budget with different goodies while imposing another monstrous tax increase.

Democratic Sens. Paul Doyle (Wethersfield), Joan Hartley (Waterbury) and Gayle Slossberg (Milford) said, “No mas.” The joined Republicans to block the Dem. budget and joined Republicans to support theirs. The House followed suit.

Reticent Democratic Sens. Joan Hartley (l) and Gayle Slossberg. GOP Sen. Len Suzio (r).

 

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano offered a one-word answer when asked how all of this came to pass. “Arrogance,” he said. “They [Dem. senate leadership] set up this b.s. argument that you either support their budget or you’re supporting the draconian cuts. Well, it didn’t turn out that way, did it?” he said. “Now, we have an approved budget. They can either support it with an override [of an expected veto] or they are supporting the same cuts.”

In the bigger picture, the budget votes last week represent a seismic shift in power in the state Senate. The Democrats theoretically control the chamber is split 18-18 with Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman breaking the tie. But now the recalcitrant three have shown their willingness to break ranks.

Internally for the Democrats, the question remains, “What the hell happened?” Doyle, Hartley and Slossberg apparently never told their leadership they were about to jump ship. Majority Leader Bob Duff (Norwalk) is quoted as saying the caucus thought the three were merely undecided. But as the debate continued, the triad clearly had prepared remarks announcing their flight from the rest of the caucus. How does that happen?

As far as the merits of the approved budget, it’s certainly not a panacea. It whacks state employee unions for sure but the state is still headed for a shortfall in the “out years” or the years not covered by the budget. The smack the unions take here will be nothing compared to what’s to come.

It does put Republicans in prime position to retake the majority in 2018. The GOP does not as of now have a winning gubernatorial candidate but that’s another story.

So it’s likely back to the drawing board when and if Malloy vetoes the approved spending plan.

What a mess.

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