Don Pesci: 'So sorry to have left you a mess'

  Autumn in Connecticut?

Autumn in Connecticut?

“Connecticut Gov.-elect Ned Lamont says outgoing Gov. Dannel Malloy has ‘done a lot of thinking about transition…’– WTNH News 8After lunch, Governor Malloy and Gov. -Elect ] Lamont have a ‘frank and honest’ conversation with each other. Throughout, Malloy – approval rating 15 -- appears to be carefree, strangely excited. The burden of governing has been lifted from his shoulders. When his term ends, he will kick the dust of Connecticut from his feet, move to Massachusetts and teach courses at his old alma mater, Boston College. Lamont is restrained, his characteristic ebullience gone, now that he faces the reality of governing a state in the dumps.

Malloy: … reason to be depressed. According to one analysis, your margin of victory in the race was larger even than mine during my first campaign. Imagine that. You have in your corner the large cities, most of the state’s media and – big surprise – portions of the state that have always gone Republican. Right now, you are very well positioned. You have the General Assembly laying like a cat in your lap, purring. Why, President Pro Tem of the Senate Martin Looney can hardly contain himself. He no longer will have to deal with Themis Klarides or Len Fasano; tough customers, those two. You can do whatever you want. It’s 2011 all over again. Be happy.

Lamont: I think you know there are problems.

Malloy: Yes, there are always problems.

Lamont: I hope we can speak frankly. Most of it has to do with the legacy you left me. I have fewer weapons in the struggle with SEBAC (union leaders with whom the governor of Connecticut sets the path of future governance) than you did coming into office in 2011. I can’t change your contracts until 2027, and the contracts provide a no-layoff provision and salary increases after a brief freeze. Then there are the recurring deficits and your expressed intention not to raise taxes. People take these silly pledges seriously you know. Perhaps most importantly, I can't shuck my problems off on my predecessor. That would be you.

Malloy: Right. Speaking frankly Ned, those are your problems, or they will become yours in January. I’m sure you’ll think of something. Tolls for trucks in Connecticut is a good baby step. The tolling, and the revenue pouring in from tolling gantries, can always be extended far beyond trucks to all vehicles, and that will provide you with a new revenue resource. Just tell everyone the bridges will collapse without repair, and that you’ll place the new revenue in a lockbox to which, heh, heh (he moves his fingers as if opening a safe) you have the combination. Given the Democratic Party’s mutually beneficial connection with unions, there is no way to discharge deficits without some new and expandable revenue source – hence tolls. You could make a grab for municipal dollars by restructuring property taxes. We’ve talked about this, remember?

Ned: The unions will have to come around.

Malloy: Yes, I’ve I tried that. It’s easier politically to stick to tax increases. Not for me of course. I’m rather hoping that the people at Boston College Law School will be willing, after a time, to forget that they hired as a professor someone whose approval rating among overtaxed Connecticut citizens is 15 percent, according to one dubious poll. I’m relying on history to rectify my standing. But you’ve made no promises during your campaign. Asked whether you intended to raise taxes, you first said ‘Yes’ and later wisely amended your ‘Yes’ to ‘No comment.’ {Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob} Stefanowski had some fun with that in his ads. But, of course, we both know that people generally discount both political ads and promises made in the heat of campaigns. Remember your Bismarck: ‘People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.’ To tell you the truth, I’m glad to be out of it.

Lamont: And so your final advice to me would be what?

Malloy: Do the progressive thing, shut out rump Republicans as I’ve done, and slog through. Remember, there will be a life after politics. As Weicker did and I will do, you may have to move out of state for a bit to reinvent yourself. He went to Washington DC to teach a class in Lowell Weicker, and I’m off to Boston to teach a class in Dannel Malloy. I feel liberated. So sorry to leave you with a mess. One more budget and I’m off the hot seat. Did I tell you I’m working on a book? Personal memoirs have become a form of character restitution, have you noticed? Shall we join the ladies?

Don Pesci is a columnist based in Vernon, Conn.

E-mail: donpesci@att.net