Chris Powell: Conn. governor should feel free to be hated

Much of Connecticut state government's budget problem, Gov. Dan Malloy noted last week,,
arises from the failure of previous governors and legislatures to appropriate
adequately for the state employee and teacher pension funds. 

That'swhy state government and municipal governments should be prohibited from
offering defined-benefit pensions to their employees. Elected officials always
divert pension deposits to ordinary current spending so they can look like
political heroes in the present, knowing that the pension bills will come due
only when they are long out of office and enjoying their own state pensions down

While Malloy is trying to improve pension funding, he has done little to restore
state government's general solvency. His two massive tax increases only fed the
government's usual pursuits. Nearly every week he triumphantly announces new
spending that would be inessential in good times and now, in bad times, is

Last week, for example, the governor announced nearly $5 million in state grants
to 17 towns for purchase of open space, even as most of those towns are rural
and will remain mainly open space for a long time as the state's economic
decline continues. 

Asked about the grants, a spokesman for the governor said the money came from a
fund dedicated to such purposes, drawn from the tax on real estate transactions.
But amid the budget shortfalls, the Malloy administration often has diverted
money from dedicated funds and has imposed "rescissions" on many appropriations.
The open space money also could be diverted to more compelling needs. 

Indeed, with a shortfall of more than a billion dollars predicted for the next
state budget, the governor should declare an emergency and challenge the many
mistaken policy premises that have laid Connecticut low. 

Last week the governor lamented a report that within two years "fixed costs" --
costs locked in by law or contract, mainly pension and debt payments -- will
consume more than half the state budget. Yet his administration continues to add
to the debt and has not even endorsed Republican proposals to eliminate
defined-benefit pensions for new state employees. Anyone lamenting "fixed costs"
should realize that the first step in saving Connecticut is [ITALICS] unfixing
[END ITALICS] them, since those costs were fixed not by God but by man. 

But then Connecticut will not even be trying to save itself financially while it
maintains collective bargaining for government employee unions and binding
arbitration for their contracts, forfeiting democratic control over huge
government expense; while it subsidizes childbearing outside marriage instead of
defining it as catastrophically expensive child abuse; while its primary
education system operates as social promotion and its higher education system is
largely remedial; while it spends hundreds of millions every year pretending to
outlaw popular drugs, not realizing that society has only as much crime as it
legislates; and while it fails to imprison incorrigibles for life after three
felonies instead of waiting for 23. 

Of course there is little political support for saving the state. Everyone on
the payroll will risk riding the ship to the bottom rather than sacrifice
anything to keep it afloat. 

Last week the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, whose acronym, CCM, is
often construed as "Caucus of Crying Mayors," objected to a new law that gently
limits the growth of municipal spending. The mayors don't want to have to
challenge their municipal employee unions; they want the state to keep
reimbursing the wage gains of municipal employees through increased financial

No, saving the state will require a political leader who is ready to be hated.
Since the polls say he already is, and since the presidential election has
foreclosed any escape for him through a federal appointment, Malloy might as
well try.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester,