Gov­er­nor Mal­loy ex­its the po­lit­i­cal arena

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE -

Mal­loy Thurs­day an­nounced he would be pass­ing the ba­ton to some other de­serv­ing Demo­crat, so he hopes.

In 20 months, re­porters in the state will be re­fer­ring to “former Gov­er­nor Dan­nel Mal­loy.”

On Thurs­day, Mr. Mal­loy an­nounced he would be pass­ing the gu­ber­na­to­rial ba­ton to some other de­serv­ing Demo­crat, so he hopes. In the last few years, Repub­li­cans have made in­roads into Con­necti­cut’s oneparty state. The State Se­nate is now evenly split be­tween the two par­ties, and Demo­cratic hege­mony in the Gen­eral As­sem­bly has had one of its wings clipped.

Re­morse and melan­choly usu­ally hang over an­nounce­ments of this kind like wind­ing shrouds, af­ter which the usual crowd be­gins to cal­cu­late the pluses and mi­nuses of the leave-tak­ing: The King is dead, long live the King; or, as Louie Arm­strong use to sing, “Life goes on with­out ya.”

Mr. Mal­loy, it is said, was choked with emo­tion “sev­eral times in a 35-minute press con­fer­ence.”

Though now a lame duck gov­er­nor whose po­lit­i­cal clout will there­fore be much di­min­ished, Mr. Mal­loy vowed to de­vote his re­main­ing time in of­fice “to con­tinue im­ple­ment­ing my ad­min­is­tra­tion’s vi­sion for a more sus­tain­able and vi­brant Con­necti­cut econ­omy.” This will be dif­fi­cult for him now that he has an­nounced he will re­move his hand from the gov­ern­ing tiller.

All the un­der­ly­ing forces – some of which are demons of good gov­ern­ment – will be set loose. Mal­loy’s bar­gain­ing power with state unions will be di­min­ished; the Demo­cratic Party ma­chine will be left to its own de­vises; the party fis­sure be­tween Old Guard Demo­cratic mod­er­ates and am­bi­tious pro­gres­sives will widen; and real po­lit­i­cal power within the Demo­cratic Party will pass, un­til the gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion is con­cluded, from a lame duck gov­er­nor to Demo­cratic lead­ers in the Gen­eral As­sem­bly, one of which, Speaker of the House Joe Ares­i­mow­icz, is em­ployed by a union.

Ad­dress­ing a room packed with staffers, leg­is­la­tors and lob­by­ists, Mr. Mal­loy promised, “I will fo­cus all my at­ten­tion and en­ergy. I will use all of my po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal from now through the end of 2018 to con­tinue im­ple­ment­ing my ad­min­is­tra­tion’s vi­sion… I’ve been do­ing that for a while. I know that Con­necti­cut must con­tinue to change and grow and strive for a more per­fect to­mor­row – that we must con­tinue to fo­cus on the long-game.”

It is not through want of en­ergy in the ex­ec­u­tive that Con­necti­cut is blow­ing bub­bles from be­neath the waves. Dur­ing his first term in of­fice, Mr. Mal­loy en­er­get­i­cally im­posed upon his state the largest tax in­crease in its his­tory, fol­lowed by the sec­ond largest tax in­crease in state his­tory, fol­lowed by a stun­ning re­al­iza­tion: while state rev­enue was in­creas­ing by leaps, deficits were in­creas­ing by bounds.

Even­tu­ally, the re­al­iza­tion slowly made its way past Ben Barnes, the state’s num­ber cruncher, to Mr. Mal­loy’s ears. The state, Mr. Barnes ad­vised, must get used to deficits for some time to come.

Why so? Be­cause state deficit obli­ga­tions are caused by spend­ing in­creases, ex­ces­sive bor­row­ing to avoid tax in­creases, the pil­fer­ing over the years of ded­i­cated funds to off-set red ink in state bud­gets and – no small mat­ter – un­con­trolled in­creases in un­touch­able “fixed costs.”

Over the years, the cowardly Gen­eral As­sem­bly had sim­ply sur­ren­dered its fidu­ciary re­spon­si­bil­i­ties by mov­ing dis­cre­tionary spend­ing into the “fixed cost” pot.

Con­necti­cut’s con­sti­tu­tional cap on spend­ing, dan­gled be­fore the Gen­eral As­sem­bly dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of then Gov­er­nor Low­ell We­icker to gain leg­isla­tive votes for an in­come tax, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ge­orge Jepsen found, be­lat­edly, about a quar­ter cen­tury af­ter the in­come tax had passed, was in­op­er­a­tive and un­con­sti­tu­tional.

In the process of sup­ply­ing new def­i­ni­tions that would make the cap con­sti­tu­tional, Democrats hit on a brilliant idea: why not move large chunks of spend­ing out­side the new cap and thereby re­lieve the pres­sure on the Demo­crat dom­i­nated Gen­eral As­sem­bly to cap spend­ing?

Pro­gres­sives in Con­necti­cut, never weary of find­ing new ways of draw­ing wa­ter from stones, have pro­posed 1) re-in­sti­tut­ing tolls, which can­not be placed, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral law, only on the bor­ders of a state 2) putting the pro­gres­sive tax bite on hedge funds, Con­necti­cut’s last un­dam­aged source of tax rev­enue, and 3) in­sti­tut­ing a tax in des­ti­tute cities such as Hartford that would be im­posed on em­ploy­ees who travel across city lines to work.

Such are the vi­sions – night­mares some will call them – of the Mal­loy-Ares­i­mow­icz-Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore Martin Looney ad­min­is­tra­tion.

When Con­necti­cut’s last Repub­li­can gov­er­nor, Jodi Rell, threw in the gu­ber­na­to­rial towel, she moved her prime res­i­dence to Florida, whose tax bite is en­durable. Bet­ting is on that soon-tobe former Gov. Dan­nel Mal­loy will move, upon his re­tire­ment, to a less pun­ish­ing state than pro­gres­sive Con­necti­cut.

Con­necti­cut gov­er­nors, more fleet footed than other res­i­dents who do not have wings on their feet, have the lux­ury of mov­ing away from their vi­sions. Don Pesci is a writer who lives in Ver­non. E-mail him at don­pesci@att.net.

Over the years, the cowardly Gen­eral As­sem­bly had sim­ply sur­ren­dered its fidu­ciary re­spon­si­bil­i­ties by mov­ing dis­cre­tionary spend­ing into the “fixed cost” pot.

REG­IS­TER CIT­I­ZEN FILE PHOTO

Gov. Dan­nel P. Mal­loy

Don Pesci Columnist

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