Malloy

Don Pesci: Night coming on in Connecticut after Democratic election flood

440px-Trapped_woman_on_a_car_roof_during_flash_flooding_in_Toowoomba_2.jpg

It’s a washout for Republicans, a signal victory for Democrats and, some disgruntled Republicans will say, their abettors in Connecticut’s left-leaning media. The Hartford Courant editorial board held their collective noses this year and gave their prized endorsement to Oz Griebel, the anti-party gubernatorial candidate of the moment. Griebel swept up a little less than 4 percent of the vote tally.

Once again, Democrat chestnuts were pulled from the fire by the larger Democrat controlled cities in the state and college students at Yale and UConn, many of whom are transients who will not be making their homes in the state after they receive their sheepskins. These voters will not befoul their own nests.

The Democratic ploy – make the campaign about President Trump’s delinquencies – worked remarkably well in a state in which Democrat voters have for years held a huge margin in party registration.

Here and there, grumblers in the media rained on the Democrat parade. Chris Powell, the former managing editor of the Journal Inquirer newspaper, now a free-lance Cassandra whose column continues to appear in the JI and other media venues, noted “Five days before the election Lamont, the Democratic nominee, told a rally of government employee union members in New Britain, 'We're going to be fighting for you for the next four years.'

Lamont's remark recalled Gov. Dannel Malloy's infamous if honest declaration to a rally of government employee union members at the state Capitol four years ago: ‘I am your servant.’” And Powell asked pointedly, “How will the new servant of the unions deliver to them after first pledging to raise taxes, then pledging not to, and then, hours before the election, dismissing a radio interviewer's question about taxes with a ‘no comment,’ as if that answer was not as arrogant as anything ever uttered by his ignorant Republican rival?”

The “ignorant Republican rival,” gubernatorial nominee Bob Stefanowski, was almost certainly right about Connecticut’s next governor when he said repeatedly during his campaign that a Governor Lamont will raise taxes and continue the warm relationship with Connecticut's employee unions that was such a prominent feature of the Malloy administration.

So then, where do we go from here? We go back to the future.

The Republican flank of the General Assembly has been effectively neutered by losses in a Senate that had been tied at 18 -18. Rep. Joe Aresimowicz eked out a narrow win to retain his post as speaker of the House. Aresimowicz is employed by a union and cannot be expected to befoul his own nest. Sen. Martin Looney, a leftist born and bred in New Haven, will continue to preside over the Senate as president pro tem. “I’m raring to go with the excitement of having a majority again,”Looney said in an interview with the New Haven Independent. As usual, these door keepers will keep the doors shut to Republican leaders in both chambers. They will not entertain Republican budgets or Republican ideas, an eerie repeat of the correlation of forces that followed Malloy’s first gubernatorial victory, in 2011.

Lamont, Looney and Aresimowicz may now proceed along their merry way as if the Malloy years, throbbing with union favorable contracts, business flight, the largest tax increase of any administration in state history, shouts from outside the state commentators that Connecticut -- whose cup runneth over with taxes, regulations and accelerated spending, along with repeated budget deficits – was simply a bad daydream. Night is coming on, with its soft murmurings of a future prosperity.

Yale and UConn graduates, who vote and run, will figure it all out soon enough. They will not have to live in the tax-prone, progressive nest they have helped to build here in the land of steady habits.

Don Pesci is an essayist based in Vernon, Conn.


Don Pesci: Conn., a tax 'donor' state, sure does well with military contracts

Headquarters of military and nonmilitary airplane-engine maker Pratt & Whitney, in East Hartford, Conn. Pratt & Whitney, like Electric Boat, in Groton, Conn., is a unit of General Dynamics.

Headquarters of military and nonmilitary airplane-engine maker Pratt & Whitney, in East Hartford, Conn. Pratt & Whitney, like Electric Boat, in Groton, Conn., is a unit of General Dynamics.

Some time ago, a Connecticut Trumpeter confessed to this political writer that he had been having a recurrent nightmare.

Military procurements during the Obama administration were slender. Connecticut is still referred to in some corners as “the provision state” because, since the Revolutionary War, Connecticut has provided the national military with provisions. It continues to do so; Pratt & Whitney, Electric Boat and Sikorsky are very much going concerns.

Obama’s military budget was considerably more modest than Trump’s, as the president never tires of reminding the country. Dollars spent on the military are, to no one’s surprise, good for Connecticut. Federal dollars spent on military procurements produce Connecticut jobs, which produce funds that replenish the state’s treasury -- all good, all the time.

This was the nightmare: The additional federal funding would produce additional state treasury dollars, since more job holders produce more tax revenue, and these blessings would allow Trump’s bitterest critics in Connecticut – every member of Connecticut’s all Democratic congressional delegation, plus outgoing Democrat Gov. Dannel Malloy and his retinue -- to claim fraudulently that the state’s ruinous progressive tax and spend policies were responsible for the additional jobs and revenue. Malloy, et al., would point with pride to the job-production figures, attributing the good fortune to his wealth-reduction policies. And this would help his protégé, millionaire Ned Lamont, capture the governor’s office.

According to a recent story in CTMirror, "'Donor state’ Conn. gets more than its fair share of federal contracting dollars,” the Trumpeter’s nightmare has now become a daytime soap opera: “At the beginning of September, Connecticut companies and non-profits had received more than $11.8 billion in federal awards. Electric Boat is in final negotiations for the next block of Virginia-class submarines, which could, with other pending Pentagon contracts, give the state a big boost this year.”

Economic adviser to the Connecticut Business & Industry Association Peter Gioia is happy: “We’ll probably have a record year on defense.”

And he is not alone. U.S. Democrat Rep. Joe "Two Sub" Courtney’s 2nd District already has received about 5.4 billion of the federal contracting dollars that were spent in the state last year. Electric Boat, in Courtney’s district (in eastern Connecticut), we are told, “is in final negotiations for the next block of Virginia-class submarines. [The contract] “would allow for the construction of 10 Virginia-class subs, with the possibility of adding an additional two, at an estimated purchase price of about $3.2 billion per boat.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s 3rd congressional district will scoop up about 3.7 billion Trump dollars, and “Rep. John Larson’s 1st District, home of engine-maker Pratt c& Whitney” will pocket about $2.5 billion. Not a bad haul from a president the entire Democratic congressional delegation would like to see impeached, principally for his bad manners. The chatter about impeachment quickly died down after polls showed it was not a winning gambit for Democrats, and the endless chatter about Russian collusion is showing signs of vaporization, even as special counsel Robert Mueller secures convictions and plea deals from Trump associates that have little or nothing to do with Russian collusion. Judicial Watch revealed a while back that the Chinese had recovered all the emails on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s illegal private server in real time; that means the Chinese were picking up all the Clinton emails, some of which contained secret and top secret information – AS SHE WAS TYPING THEM.

The Clintons' fast friend U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal and his junior partner, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, have yet to threaten suits or other actions against Saint Hillary, their attention having been diverted to killing, by any means necessary, the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Blumenthal, who virulently opposed all Trump nominations to the high court before Kavanaugh emerged as Trump’s nominee, may have been partly responsible for the Antifa-like opposition displayed by political maenads during and after the prelude to the hearings. Still searching for impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors under Trump's bed, Blumenthal will ironically, along with other Democrat members of the state's congressional delegation, be the beneficiaries of the Trump business bump in Connecticut.

Could Otto von Bismarck have gotten it right? “There is a Providence,” he said “that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America.” Adjusted to fit modern times, Bismarck’s aphorism might read “There is a Providence that protects idiot congressmen -- see Twain above – drunkards and opium eaters, children, but not late term abortion babies, and the United States of America as viewed by progressive Democrats.”

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.


Term limits look better and better in Connecticut

The lame ducks depicted in this  Clifford K. Berryman  cartoon are defeated Democrats heading to the  White House  hoping to secure political appointments from  President  Woodrow Wilson .

The lame ducks depicted in this Clifford K. Berryman cartoon are defeated Democrats heading to the White House hoping to secure political appointments from  President Woodrow Wilson.

Columnist Jim Cameron in the Stamford Advocate has curtly written off  Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy: “Our governor is a lame duck. Because he’s announced he’s not running for re-election, he has the political clout of a used teabag. And even though he’s our state’s leader for another 11 months, nobody cares about him or his ideas any longer.”

Malloy’s lieutenant governor, Nancy Wyman, has decided she would rather be spending time with her family than running for governor, which would necessarily entail a hearty defense of Malloy’s ruinous policies.

After two terms making Connecticut great again, Malloy himself has decided to take a hike.

Atty. Gen. George Jepsen, whose time in office was spent avoiding media notoriety -- unlike his predecessor,  Dick Blumenthal, for whom fawning media attention was the River Styx in which he bathed frequently – has called it a day after two terms as Connecticut’s AG. And no, the former chairman of the State Democratic Party has no plans to run for governor. Both Blumenthal and former Atty. Gen. Joe Lieberman used the AG’s office as springboard to a U.S. Senate sinecure.    

Mayor of Hartford Luke Bronin, once Malloy’s chief counsel, having said he would need a couple of terms in office to turn the U.S.S. Hartford around, has rushed into the vacuum created by Malloy’s departure.  Connecticut’s capital is taking on water. Only a few weeks ago, Bronin was palavering with lawyers about a bankruptcy declaration, and if he now feels the governor’s office is a politically safe haven compared to the mayoralty of Hartford, he’s one bright cookie. Most lawyers are not dummies. despite the usual bad rap on the comic circuit. Question: What do you call a lawyer with an I. Q. of 50? Answer: Your honor.

An open Democrat gubernatorial field has yanked Ned Lamont from the shadows. Lamont, a cable millionaire and great-grandson of a late chairman of J.P. Morgan & Co. Thomas Lamont, successfully challenged then U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in a Democrat primary; he then lost to Lieberman, who successfully defended his seat as an independent in a general election. “Lamont spent $26 million of his cable television fortune on his run for the Senate and for governor,” Neil Vigdor of CTPostreminds us, and Lamont was, of course, supported by former U.S. Sen. Lowell Weicker, who is still recovering from his 1988 loss to Lieberman.

“I just care about whether I think I can make a difference and get this state back on track,” Lamont said. “We’ve got so many amazing assets. We’re just not making the best out of our potential.” Lamont indicated that he would decide by January whether he would throw his hat into the gubernatorial ring. By that time, the floor on both sides of the political barracks will be littered with hats.

These bow-outs of Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen have kicked the doors open on an election that promises to be alarmingly interesting. If anyone wants to know how term limits might introduce into Connecticut’s sclerotic political system the verve and energy of a new day, they have only to look about them. Had term limits been in force midway between Dick Blumenthal’s agonizingly long 20-year term as the state’s attorney general he might have been a U.S. senator or possibly governor more than 10 years earlier; for it is not true that term limits would end political careers. They would simply move the pieces on the political chessboard toward different political functions. PAC committees, easily captured by incumbents, would have to decide, upon a governor or a senator leaving his post, who they might want to corrupt in the future; in the absence of a healthy turn-over in various offices, corruption has become routine, predictable and automatic. Term limits would invigorate political parties, and awaken all the nerve tingling juices of reporters during election cycles.

This is precisely what is happening right now that three prominent officeholders have decided in effect to term limit themselves.

Jepsen’s political career has been well rounded: In 2018, he will have put in eight years as attorney general. But Jepsen also served in the State House for  four years and the State Senate for 12 years. He served as chairman of the  state Democratic Party for two years. These terms in different political offices approximate term limit spans. Jepsen circulated himself through a now sclerotic political system, and no one is complaining that the state Senate, for example, has been irreparably damaged because Jepsen did not spend as much time there as Blumenthal had in the attorney general’s office.

Had term limits been in operation for the last few election cycles, no one in the Democratic Party would be wincing at the prospect that a Bridgeport mayor who spent years in prison for corruption might become the next governor of Connecticut. The gubernatorial field on the Democratic side would now be crowded with recirculated Democrats, some of whom just might be able to pull Connecticut out of its progressive mire by its former moderate and pragmatic bootstraps.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnisf.

Chris Powell: Maybe Conn. is starting to gets its government under control

 

After three months of fecklessness, delusion, incompetence and disorder that embarrassed the state throughout the country, Connecticut may be grateful for any budget at all, even if the compromise budget developed this week by the General Assembly's Democratic and Republican leaders is found to contain more than the usual hurtful, stupid, and dishonest provisions.

In any case if the compromise wins Gov. Dannel Malloy's signature or is enacted over his veto, it will restore at least the semblance of government and end the governor's allocation of money on an emergency and arbitrary basis. That will be a great relief to most municipalities, since the governor has been threatening their school money.

But the budget may cause pain, not relief, for many other recipients of state money, whose funding will have been sharply reduced or even eliminated without much if any public discussion. That pain will be the other side of the budget compromise's not raising taxes sharply and its failure to control state employee and municipal teacher pensions and benefits.

Many more years of such pain are probably ahead for government in Connecticut as people increasingly understand that it is failing to achieve its nominal objectives and is alienating and starting to lose Connecticut's productive, self-sufficient population. A political consensus that state government has to start serving the public more and itself less just may be developing.

If such a consensus is developing, it will have been sparked by the three moderate Democratic senators and five moderate Democratic representatives who undid their party's narrow majorities in the legislature by voting for a Republican budget, thereby forcing their party to settle for something less than another huge tax increase. Another huge tax increase would have only fed the machine of state government, which isn't much more than a pension and benefit society.

Indeed, pension and benefit costs for state employees and municipal teachers cannibalized state government more than ever this year. Yes, the pensions long have been underfunded, but most people in state government and the state employee and municipal teacher unions knew this. The unspoken agreement has been that union members would get contracts making them state government's only secured creditors when the crackup in the state's finances and demographics began. Public services and government's other dependents would suffer but not the union members.

The unions have known this better than many of the public's supposed representatives, so it will be no offense if a new political consensus strives to revise pensions and benefit costs in the public's favor, as the compromise budget has started to do by requiring teachers to contribute more toward their pensions. This provision is remarkable, since teacher unions are the most feared special interest in the state and surely will retaliate, especially against Democratic legislators they had considered their mute tools.

The governor must be credited for forcing the pension issue this year by insisting on maintaining the proper level of contributions to the pension funds. He would have deserved a lot more credit if he had insisted on serious concessions from the state employee unions instead of giving them another generous contract prior to the budget's adoption.

The governor also must be credited for prompting the budget compromise by threatening to cut off the school money. Without that threat by the governor, legislators might have dithered a lot longer.

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

Carolyn Morwick: Legislative gridlock in the Constitution State

- Kumusser

- Kumusser

 

From the New England Journal of Higher Education, part of The New England Board of Higher Education (nebhe.org):

On June 7, Connecticut legislators wrapped up their session without passing a two-year budget. The failure to pass a budget or a provisional budget reflects a deeply divided Legislature with an 18-18 split in the Senate and a slight Democratic majority, 79-72, in the House. As lawmakers adjourned, Gov. Dannel Malloy chastised them for failing to break the deadlock and pass a budget.

A big sticking point is a deficit of $3.5 billion over the two-year budget cycle. Previously, the deficit was estimated at $5 billion but was reduced to $3.5 billion as a result of concessions negotiated with state labor unions that are slated to save $1.57 billion over the next two years. The deficit for FY18 is $1.6 billion.

Malloy has indicated that at least $116 million would be cut from three of the state's major human services agencies—Social Services, Developmental Services and Mental Health and Addiction Services. The state’s hospitals could also be the victim of cuts. Malloy noted that state tax reimbursements of $35.6 million would, in turn, trigger $75.8 million in federal Medicaid funds, which could also be lost. His plan seeks to restore these funds.

One of the big challenges facing Malloy is getting the support of Connecticut municipalities to close the deficit. He has asked for the cooperation of municipal leaders to contribute to the teacher’s pension system, which is now financed by the state and the state’s teachers. Malloy also wants local leaders to help come up with a new formula for distributing a reduced amount of local aid to school districts. As if things weren’t bad enough, the capital city of Hartford has declared bankruptcy and is looking for a state bailout.

Solutions to help resolve this situation include new sources of revenue such as a hike in the sales tax. The current rate is 6.35%, which is the 12th highest in the U.S. The proposed increase would raise the tax to 6.99% which would be the second highest in the country. (California is the highest with a rate of 7.25 %.) Another source of revenue which has already received approval is a third casino proposed for East Windsor.

Legislation Passed, Signed Into Law

Workforce Development System

HB 5590 An Act Creating a Task Force to Improve the Workforce Development System in the State of Connecticut

Codifies the state’s existing longitudinal data system and governing board. Requires the state’s Labor Commissioner to develop a universal intake form for persons entering American Job Centers or Workforce Development Board facilities. The Commissioner uses the information from the standardized intake forms for an annual report to the General Assembly, including: the number of people using American Job Center or Workforce Development Board employment rates and average wages of persons who utilized those services; the number of people in various pathways; and the industry sectors in which completers find employment.

Separate Technical High School System

HB 7271 An Act Concerning the Establishment of a Technical High School System

Establishes the technical school system as an independent state agency, beginning July 2019.

Postsecondary Vocational Programs, Technical High School System

HB 7202 An Act Establishing a Division of Postsecondary Education Programs Within the Technical High School System

Classifies licensed practical nurse programs and aviation maintenance programs as “postsecondary education programs” to maintain students’ eligibility to for federal Pell Grants.

Transportation Lockbox

JR 100 Resolution Approving a State Constitutional Amendment to Protect Transportation Funds

Voters in the November 2018 election will decide whether to amend the state Constitution to ensure that money in the Special Transportation Fund be used solely for transportation-related costs–a transportation “lockbox.”

Third Tribal Casino

SB 957 An Act Concerning the Regulation of Gaming and the Authorization of a Casino Gaming Facility in the State

A third casino supported by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe was approved for East Windsor. This would be the first casino built on non-tribal land. MGM Resorts International, which has a casino under construction in Springfield, Mass., has issued a court challenge to the action taken by the Connecticut General Assembly.

Defendants Unable to Pay Bail

HB 7044 An Act Concerning Pretrial Justice Reform

Reduces the chance some defendants will be jailed solely over their inability to afford bail.

Gay Rights

HB 6695 An Act Protecting Youth From Conversion Therapy

Bans conversion therapy for changing the sexual orientation of minors—a discredited practice blamed for depression and teen suicide.

Abused and Neglected Children

SB 895 An Act Concerning the Department of Children and Families’ Standards and Reporting Requirements

Improves investigating tools related to allegations of abused and neglected children. Requires Department of Children and Families to establish protocols for proper visitation and oversight by caseworkers.

Abused and Neglected Children in Foster Care

HB 6741 An Act Concerning the Right of Counsel to Access Records in Certain Abuse and Neglect Proceedings

Grants attorneys immediate access to records of abused and/or neglected children in the foster care system.

Requirements for Preschool Staff

SB 912 An Act Concerning Revisions to the Staff Qualifications Requirement for Early Childhood Educators

Requires an associate degree in early childhood education to be employed at state-funded preschool programs.

Graduation Requirements

SB 1026 An Act Concerning Revisions to the High School Graduation Requirements

Delays and revises the requirements set to go into effect with the freshman fall class that would have required additional credits in math, science and foreign language, senior project and passing exams in algebra, geometry, biology, American History and English to graduate as ordered by Superior Court judge. The legislation does away with exit exams and a senior project while expanding the description of courses needed for students to graduate.

Legislation That Failed

Dreamers

SB 17 An Act Assisting Students Without Legal Immigration Status With the Cost of College

Would include undocumented students as eligible for student financial aid.

Transfer Requirements

SB 971 An Act Concerning the Promotion of Transfer and Articulation Agreements

Streamlines the process for transferring credits from community colleges to state universities, resolves the lost transfer credit

Early Voting

HJ 37 Resolution Proposing a State Constitutional Amendment to Provide for Legislation by Direct Initiative and Referendum

Requires a change in the state constitution, which could take several years unless the General Assembly votes by supermajority to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Approved by House; Senate failed to vote on this.

For-Profit Colleges

SB 972 An Act Concerning Tuition Integrity at For-Profit Institutions of Higher Education

Limits what for-profit colleges can spend on advertising to recruit students while putting a cap on federal financial aid spent on non-instructional costs.

Tesla

HB 797 An Act Concerning the Licensing of New and Used Cars Dealers

Authorizes the commissioner of motor vehicles to issue a new or used car dealer’s license to an electric vehicle manufacturer.

Women’s Health

SB 586 An Act Expanding Mandated Health Benefits for Women, Children and Adolescents.

Preserves the Affordable Care Act’s protection for women and children in Connecticut should the ACA law be repealed. Failed in House; passed in Senate.

K-12 and Higher Education In Limbo Without a State Budget

On Aug. 15, school superintendents, teachers, administrators, members of school boards and parents pleaded with Malloy and members of the Connecticut General Assembly to produce a budget before the school year starts. The failure to produce a budget has forced school districts to cut dozens of positions and put hundreds more on hold.

Higher Education Funding

Malloy proposed cutting an additional $62.2 million for the University of Connecticut, the UConn Health Center, Connecticut state colleges and universities. Both the UConn and the Board of Regents for Higher Education are expected to wait on setting final budgets until the size of the cuts are known.

Carolyn Morwick directs government and community relations at NEBHE and is former director of the Caucus of New England State Legislatures.

 

 

 

Don Pesci: Where Democrats are the status quo party

Quite suddenly, the enabler for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) in Connecticut’s General Assembly, Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, has contracted a wicked case of ants in his pants.

 

The state legislature closed for official business on June 7, nearly two months ago. But Aresimowicz, the gatekeeper in the House without whose approval no bill may reach the floor of the General Assembly, dawdled delinquently and brought no budget to the floor. In truth, the Democratic leader in the House had no budget bill in hand to present to the legislature – none. Aresimowicz was waiting for state employee rank and file union members to vote on a closed door deal being shaped by Gov. Dannel Malloy and union chiefs.

 

The fiscal year ended on June 30. Democrat legislators still had not produced a budget. In the meantime, Republicans – who had fashioned a budget that had been vetted and pronounced balanced by the State Budget Office – were unable to get their budget bill  to the floor so that it might be discussed and voted upon. Unlike Democrats, Republicans were budgeting for the Connecticut’s imperiled future, Republican leader in the Senate Len Fasano later would say.

 

The obstacles were Aresimowicz, presently employed by a union, Malloy, who in the past has marched with union protesters on strike-lines, progressive legislators in the General Assembly agitating for increased taxes on remaining wealthy taxpayers in the state who had not yet bolted for less predatory states, those in Connecticut’s media who prefer the current ruinous status quo,  and confused and unorganized taxpayers, soon to be plundered again by the progressive legislative proponents ofthe largest and second largest tax increases in state history.

The Democratic Party “resistance” was waiting, as usual, upon unions to make “concessions.” The SEBAC-Malloy-Aresimowicz fait accompli would not come out of the closed to the public closet until July 18.

So – wait for the concessions.

The SEBAC-Malloy-Aresimowicz-progressive Democrat deal resembled to a “T” past SEBAC-Malloy- Aresimowicz-progressive Democrat deals. So pro-union was the deal that it passed a vote by rank and file union workers in the blink of an eye. The deal guarantees annual raises of three percent per year; it includes a no-layoff provision; and – most importantly – pushes out the termination of the agreed upon contracts until 2027, by which time Malloy, Aresimowicz and not a few retired union leaders may have shaken the dust of Connecticut from their feet and become residents of Florida. Former Gov. Jodi Rell, once thought to be a firewall that preventing union arsonists from burning down the house, is now a citizen of Florida.

This is the status quo in Connecticut: tax increases, spending increases, business flight and reduced revenues – which, of course, necessitate higher taxes, more spending, more business flight and diminished revenues.  At this remove, no one any longer remembers former Gov. Lowell Weicker’s prophetic campaign prediction: “Raising taxes in the middle of a recession would be like pouring gas on a fire.” The recession that greeted Weicker when he became governor – and instituted an income tax – lasted more than a decade. The current recession that wafted Malloy into office officially ended in June, 2009 – but not in Connecticut, where the tax-increase fire still burns in the basement.

While Democrats in the General Assembly have yet to produce a budget, they are now using the state crisis they have caused to force Republicans who do not support the state deadly status quo to lend their shoulders to push forward a union deal that will secure so-called union “concession” to 2017 – thus preventing future governors and future legislators from successfully attacking the real causes of Connecticut’s discontent.

The Democrat Party is now the last refuge of scoundrels who wish to maintain the status quo. The Republican Party has become the reform party.

Suppose, critics of the proposed contracts ask, there is another recession. Given the present SEBAC-Malloy-Aresimowicz fait accompli, what can a future governor or a future legislature do to mitigate the ruinous consequences of a third recession? Answer: nothing. Bound by inflexible, court enforceable contracts, future governors and legislators will not be able to reduce unionized benefits, modify salary increases or curtail contractual layoff protections until the ironclad contracts elapse in 2017. A Republican reform – so far resisted by union employed Aresimowicz, pro-union governor Malloy, and progressives in Connecticut’s status quo General Assembly – would allow the legislature to escape the contract trap by changing from contract to statute the means government may use to snatch democracy from the jaws of SEBAC.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.

Chris Powell: Are Connecticut's GOP legislators ready for responsibility?

Connecticut's Merritt Parkway in  the sprin g.

Connecticut's Merritt Parkway in  the spring.

 

MANCHESTER, Conn.

Just days from now Connecticut may be the most beautiful place in the world as its trees and flowers bloom, its skies brighten, its weather warms, and people open their windows and emerge from their winter quarters. But administratively and politically Connecticut will be something else -- perhaps the most deranged, deluded, and declining state in the country.

If many people still believe anything coming out of state government, this week's state income tax revenue estimates, shockingly below expectations, should puncture whatever illusions remain that Connecticut is improving or even leveling off from its long decline. For if the state was improving, tax revenue would be rising, not falling, as would the state's population, and not every business expansion would have to be purchased with a subsidy from state government.

Despite the crash in revenue estimates and a projected state budget deficit approaching $2 billion, this week the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee announced that it wants to increase state spending by more than 5 percent in the next year, which would mean more big tax increases, especially since most legislators have rejected Gov. Dannel Malloy's proposal to balance the budget by slashing education aid to most towns and to require towns to cover a third of the annual cost of the teacher pension fund.

Many legislators will  go along with the governor's plan to exact $1.7 billion in concessions from the state employee unions somehow, but only as long as the governor handles that challenge by himself so legislators don't have to alienate the unions with legislation.

Also this week the superintendent of the Connecticut Technical High School System resigned while under investigation for spending $4.5 million of state money with a public relations agency, much of it for largely self-promotional publicity over the last three years.

In other states such a scandal might prompt the legislature to inquire as to how so much money could be spent so self-servingly before somebody noticed. But in Connecticut things like this just prompt legislators to look harder for ways to raise more money.

Though the Appropriations Committee devised a budget this week, its one-member Democratic majority could not bring itself to vote on it without assurances of support and political cover from Republican members, which wasn't forthcoming. Democratic leaders were bitter about this but they shouldn't have been, for the committee's inability to report a budget increased the obligation of the Republicans to propose one of their own, which they have been reluctant to do, since it would require them to cut spending substantially or raise taxes or do some of both -- that is, to take responsibility.

But if the Republicans summon the courage to specify spending cuts so that tax increases can be avoided, they just might get their budget passed in the legislature and signed by the governor, a Democrat who has begun opposing tax increases, perhaps in part because he is not seeking re-election and needn't worry as much about his own party.

The legislature's political margins are now so close that to pass a budget the Republicans would need to draw only several Democratic votes in the House and only one in the Senate, and there are many Democratic legislators who would make themselves vulnerable in the election next year if they raised taxes as they have done before with their governor. Then the Republicans could go into the campaign as the party that prevented another big Democratic tax increase.

Of course the Republicans would have made enemies among some of those who are dependent on state spending, but they were never going to get those votes anyway.

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

Chris Powell: The binding arbitration disaster: How about electing municipal "contract arbiters'' to take fiscal responsibility?

With even Connecticut Gov.  Dannel Malloy acknowledging that binding arbitration for municipal government employee union contracts may be a bit of a problem amid state government's worsening insolvency, maybe sensible change is coming to Connecticut. But what the governor has proposed is timid, little more than an invitation to the General Assembly to discuss the issue, which is the last thing that legislators want to do, lest they provoke the unions and all the government employees living in their districts.   

The governor proposes only a change in the selection of supposedly neutral arbiters, who are picked by the arbiters already chosen by the management and union sides in contract disputes. Neutral arbiters are said to fear favoring one side or the other too much lest they not get chosen again and lose the arbitration work. So the governor proposes random selection for the neutral arbiters.   

But this would leave the binding arbitration system in place, a system that removes most of a municipal budget from the ordinary democratic process. The governor's proposal is not likely to save any significant money for the public.   

Elected officials want binding arbitration almost as much as government employee unions do because they don't want to have to be seen choosing between taxpayers and government employees. Elected officials want someone else -- those unelected arbiters -- to take responsibility for the big decisions that drive municipal taxes up or public services down every year. Elected officials want to be able to shrug and proclaim their helplessness to their constituents.   

The real reform of binding arbitration would be to repeal it and restore to elected officials the authority to decide the compensation of municipal- government employees. But even Republican legislators would never dare to do that, since Republican town officials don't want responsibility any more thanDemocratic town officials do.   

So another reform might be more instructive and almost as good: requiring each town to elect a contract arbiter at each municipal election -- to find just one person in every town willing to take political responsibility, and, really, to control a town's finances. Mayors, council members, and school board members  could continue to hold their offices and pretend to be important, but in effect the town arbiter would decide how most of the town's money was spent.   

Such a system would abruptly concentrate the public's attention on where most of its municipal tax money goes. There would be union candidates and taxpayer candidates for arbiter and, whoever won, the issue would be settled democratically.   

If just one Republican legislator could introduce a bill to elect contract arbiters, the unions would explode in outrage at the idea of restoring democracy to municipal finance and the arbitration system would be exposed as the anti-democratic and cowardly racket it is.   

The governor also has proposed a timid reform of another racket, the state's"prevailing wage" system of contracting for municipal construction projects.  This system forces municipalities to hire contractors who pay above-market wages to their employees. The effect is to force municipalities to give their construction work to contractors whose employees are unionized.   

The governor would raise the threshold at which "prevailing wage" work is required for municipal projects. The $100,000 threshold for remodeling work would rise to $500,000 and the $400,000 threshold for new construction would rise to $1 million.   

The president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, Lori Pelletier, denounces this as an attempt to balance budgets "on the backs of workers," which expresses the union attitude perfectly: that Connecticut's taxpayers aren't workers too.

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

Don Pesci: GOP tide might even be rising over Connecticut

It’s always possible for politicians to learn from current events, mend their ways and move on. Owing to the failure of questionable progressive policies, national Democrats this election year kept the House and the Senate and won the presidency.

 Republican gains have brought to a full stop a serious progressive movement that began when Barack Obama assumed office in 2009. Flush with success – Democrats that year captured both houses of Congress and the presidency – Mr. Obama ran a progressive plank above shark-infested waters and invited Democrats to take a stroll. They did. Eight years later, Democrats have 12 fewer governorships, 13  fewer Senate seats and 69 fewer seats in the House.

 

The losses cut deep and will be long remembered. During Mr. Obama’s two terms, according to MarketWatch Democrats lost more than 1,000 seats at the state and national level, leaving Republicans in control of 4,170 state legislative seats. The GOP holds 33 governorships and in 25 states controls both the governorship and two houses of the state legislature, whereas Democrats hold five. Clearly, the Democratic political trek from the heights to the depths is the most dramatic rejection of a nascent progressive movement in living memory.



In Connecticut as well, the progressive political arc now bends downward.  In 2011, Connecticut Democrats seized the governorship for the first time in two decades, displacing two Republican governors and Lowell Weicker, whose political affections, even when he represented Republicans in the U.S. Senate, put him firmly in the Democratic Party camp. Mr. Weicker’s liberal American for Democratic Action (ADA) rating during his last year in the Senate was higher than that of U.S. Senator Chris Dodd’s, and the income tax he draped around the state’s neck like a hangman’s noose stood him in good stead with Democrats.

Ripping a page from Mr. Obama’s campaign book, Gov.  Dannel Malloy simply refused to do political business with Republicans, and the Democrats in due course passed two budgets freighted with massive tax hikes, the first the largest and the second the second largest tax hikes in Connecticut history -- with predictable results.

In the most recent election, Republicans evened the numbers in the state Senate and made substantial gains in the House. “For the first time in 125 years,” one reporter noted, “Democrats and Republicans are tied in the state Senate. With a shift of just four votes on the House of Representatives side, the Democratic majority could lose control of issues due to their 79 to 72 advantage – the narrowest margin in more than 50 years.”

 

The numbers cited – “first time in 125 years… narrowest margin in more than 50 years” -- point to historic, even momentous Republican gains. The power shift in the General Assembly – and, Republicans hope, in the upcoming gubernatorial race in the next two years -- will be momentous if Republicans are able to seize the moment and turn it to their political advantage, by no means a foregone conclusion.

 

And if Republicans and moderate Democrats working, one hopes, hand in glove to make permanent life-saving, long-term  adjustments in Connecticut’s economic and social policy, are unsuccessful -- beaten back by progressives in the General Assembly who want to increase taxes to support an already too expensive unionized public employee sector  -- what then? Chris Powell, managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, put it very bluntly in a recent column,   Connecticut has wasted 40 years enriching its government class: “Since enactment of its state income tax in 1991 Connecticut has been declining steadily, and despite that tax increase and the others, state government is broke. Now Connecticut has nothing to do but strive desperately to subordinate the government class and unfix its ‘fixed costs’ -- or die.”

Mr. Powell is right. At stake in the next budget is not the welfare of a party, unions or a progressive ideology -- but the welfare of the state. Connecticut’s “fixed costs,” the untouchable expenditures written into budgets that cannot be adjusted, crowds out and marginalizes  the government’s disposable revenue, and the bulk of the state’s fixed costs are tied to pension and salary agreements between state employee unions and a government that a) has been overgenerous to unions in the past, and b) retreats behind the curtain of “fixed costs” whenever anyone suggests permanent spending reductions, the only way Connecticut may lift itself up from permanent deficits and frequent cuts in services to the deserving poor.

Moreover, even the most progressive Connecticut governor since Wilber Cross knows in his bones that further tax increases will plunge the state into a “fixed tailspin” from which it is not likely to recover.

 

The next budget offered by Mr. Malloy to the General Assembly will fix Connecticut’s fate well beyond the next elections. Now is the time – perhaps the last opportunity – for all good men and women to come to the aid of their state.
    

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based political writer.

 

Don Pesci: Progressivism is the opposite of thoughtful restraint

“The having made a young Girl miserable may give you frequent bitter Reflections, none of which can attend the making an old Woman happy.... [and Lastly] They are so grateful!!”

-- Benjamin Franklin in a letter toa friend in 1745

It probably is not true that older wives are by nature more grateful than, say, Melania Trump, soon to be the nation’s  First Lady. But, true or not, Franklin’s whiplash wit helps one to understand why the American ambassador, who lived in France for nine years, was so joyously received in French salons.

The Republican Party in Connecticut has for a long while been the old wife whom voters do not wish to marry. Registered Democrats in the state still outnumber Republicans by a ratio of two to one, and Democrats are outnumbered by party averse Independents, who, hopping from bed to bed, apparently do not believe in political marriages. This may be changing. Republicans will be very grateful if it does.

The change, if any, will be brought about in part by the mistreatment suffered by voters at the hands of their contractual spouse, the Democratic Party. Gov.  Dannel Malloy’s fling with Connecticut voters certainly changed radically after Mr. Malloy’s first honeymoon campaign was over.  Economically, everyone in the state but for those receiving tax payouts is poorer following the largest and second largest tax increases in state history. But the radical changes among Connecticut’s cutting edge progressives may best be appreciated when viewing social rather than economic issues.

The operative economic principle of progressivism is that laisse faire government is inherently unjust for reasons stated by Woodrow Wilson, a president who is viewed as marking an historical line of division between progressive government and the generally accepted pre-Wilson ideal that government governs best which governs least, a sentiment credited variously to Thomas Jefferson, Tom Paine and Henry David Thoreau.

Wilson’s view on the prerogatives of the state was, well… different. Prior to the advent of the Wilson presidency, said Wilson, “the ideal of government was for every man to be left alone and not interfered with, except when he interfered with somebody else; and that the best government was the government that did as little governing as possible.” However, this arrangement, Wilson felt, leaves defenseless citizens at the mercy of predatory corporations. Limits on government should be expanded, Wilson thought, so that the “sphere of the state may reach as far as the nature and needs of man and of men reach, including intellectual and aesthetic wants of the individual, and the religious and moral nature of its citizens."

Government overreach under both outgoing President Obama and Governor Malloy is proof, if any were needed, that a government without limits that does everything will do everything poorly.

Is there any area of life into which the state may not intrude in order to redress perceived injustices? Apparently not, according to the modern progressive. Mr. Wilson, who had been a Princeton professor and the university’s president before becoming New Jersey governor and then president, had an aversion to Big Business; but the modern progressive has an aversion to anyone seeking to escape molestation by an omnipresent and omniscient state.

No red line may be drawn between a citizen and his solicitous state, which is why we are now debating whether it is proper for the state to order predatory businesses to allow men who want to be women to use women’s bathrooms. Progressives in Connecticut have protectively leapt aboard this new bandwagon, arguing that forbidding a transgender man-to-woman, or a man who fancies dressing up in women’s clothing, from bursting in upon women in public powder rooms is on a par with forbidding African Americans from being seated in public lunch counters and busses along with white folk. One can only wonder what the Rev.  Martin Luther King Jr. might have made of that proposition.

Connecticut has been for the past few years a vanguard progressive state. It provides sanctuary to illegal aliens, college educations to some of its convicted criminals, and its governor has proudly marched with union strikers, some craven few would say, to garner union votes during elections. Such was the case before Governor Malloy very recently detected retrograde conservative tendencies in his approach to governance. “Who is the most conservative governor that any of you have worked with in the last whatever period of time you’ve been here?” Mr. Malloy recently asked Connecticut’s media. The media, dumbfounded, could make no answer.

Mr. Malloy’s messaging is purposely confusing. Is his government fish or fowl, progressive or conservative? It cannot be both.

Mr. Malloy is quoted most recently in Politico to this effect in defense of sanctuary cities: “I am not a shy individual; I have opinions, and as long as people ask my opinion I will lend it.” No kidding.

And he continues, “There are these states that are progressive that have benefited from that progressiveness, that are going to be examples of restraint and voices of responsibility. I would urge right-thinking individuals who’ve benefited from the advances our society has made to not be quiet. We’re going to continue to do the things we can do, and the things we can afford to do. We’re certainly not going to backtrack on refugees. We’re certainly not going to backtrack on gay, lesbian, transgender rights. We’re certainly not going to give up on making sure our citizens have healthcare."

Sure, sure. Progressivism is the opposite of a doctrine of governmental restraint, and progressives in Mr. Malloy’s administration have been boisterously progressive, in word and deed. Connecticut is suffering from progressive overreach, the corrective for which is a large dose of conservatism or, as President Calvin Coolidge might have insisted, a return to economic and social traditional and normality. That is the message that was delivered by voters during the late lamented national elections. This unsatisfied longing for normalcy very well may deliver the political heights in Connecticut to Republicans in the near future. To be sure, Donald Trump, infested with some dangerous conservative tendencies, is no “silent Cal,” but neither is Mr. Malloy.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based political writer.

 

 

Chris Powell: Arrogant "undocumented immigrants'' out of the shadows; fictionalizing parking for the handicapped


As they blocked Main Street in downtown Hartford by unfurling a 50-foot banner protesting deportations and an unfavorable (to them) U.S. Supreme Court decision, "undocumented immigrants" -- the politically correct term for illegal aliens -- and their supporters declared last week that they were "coming out of the shadows."

"I'm undocumented, unafraid, and here to stay," one announced through a bullhorn.

Nine protesters were charged by police with disorderly conduct.

Their disappointment was understandable but their indignation was misplaced and their presumption of a right to inconvenience and bully everyone else was contemptible. 

After all, few illegal aliens are "living in the shadows" in Connecticut. Hartford and New Haven have declared themselves "sanctuary cities," formally committed to nullifying federal immigration law, as state government itself is committed more or less, now that it is providing driver's licenses and college-tuition discounts to illegals. All Connecticut's members of Congress favor amnesty for illegals. 

Besides, "living in the shadows" is what lawbreakers do, although it's not as if any immigration-law violator is in danger of being persecuted for innocent characteristics like ethnicity, homosexuality or left-handedness. Every nation has the right to immigration law -- indeed, controlling immigration is the definition of nationhood -- and illegals have violated the law just as much as anyone else has.

Yes, the country's failure to enforce immigration law, induced by pressure from unscrupulous employers and groups that don't want any immigration-law enforcement, has contributed to the extenuating circumstances of millions of young people whose illegality was the responsibility of their parents. Politics has been obstructing legislation that might give them a "path to citizenship" -- and not just the politics of legislators hostile to immigration but also the politics of legislators hostile to achieving border control before amnesty. But that's democracy for you. Building consensus can take time.

Breaking a perfectly legitimate law and then demanding that it be changed in one's favor while one bullies innocent people on the street is pretty arrogant. Who do the illegals think they are -- Citigroup or Tribune Publishing, which undertook illegal corporate acquisitions in Connecticut, confident that they were influential enough to get the laws and regulations repealed?

If their arrogance is going to extend to blocking traffic, the illegals should go back in the shadows.

* * *

Because of legislation signed last week by Gov. Dannel Malloy, Connecticut's official emblem for reserving parking spots for the handicapped has been what the governor calls "modernized." It's more like fictionalized.

The old emblem showed a stick figure sitting in a wheelchair. The new emblem has the stick figure leaning forward in a racing pose as if engaging in a game of wheelchair basketball. The idea is to dispel the supposedly retrograde idea that the handicapped are handicapped and instead suggest that people with disabilities can lead active lives -- as if anyone thought there was some law against it.

But of course if the handicapped were not disadvantaged in some way, they would hardly need preferential parking, and most of the people whose cars are equipped with handicapped parking permits are not athletes but old folks unsteady on their feet, carrying canes, or lugging oxygen canisters.

So the new emblem is just another symptom of the political correctness plaguing Connecticut under the Malloy administration. In this respect the collapse of state government's finances is fortunate, for nothing will be spent to replace the handicapped parking signs just to get rid of the old emblem. The signs with the old emblem will be replaced only as they wear out. For the time being the PC brigades may have to settle for taking the signs off bathroom doors.

Chris Powell is a Connecticut-based columnist on politics and society and managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Block immigrants from repugnant, anti-Western cultures

According to police and news reports about Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the atrocity in Orlando:

·      He was a Muslim and the son of refugees from Afghanistan who was born in New York.

·      His father imagines himself president or a military leader of Afghanistan and hosts a television program on which he has supported the Taliban and called for killing homosexuals.

·      He was said to have made remarks sympathetic to terrorism that brought him to the attention of the FBI, which found nothing actionable.

·      In accordance with the teaching of the crazy cult that is trying to hijack Islam he frequently beat his first wife, who came to consider him psychotic and left him.

·      Also in accordance with the teaching of the crazy cult, he was enraged by homosexuality, and, completing his psychosis, had homosexual tendencies himself, having often visited the gay bar where he eventually perpetrated his murderous rampage.

In this context Mateen's mid-rampage call to police to proclaim his loyalty to the Middle Eastern terrorist group ISIS seems more like a vainglorious afterthought than part of a conspiracy.

Predictably enough, Democrats are using the atrocity to argue for their gun-control agenda, including prohibition of "assault weapons," apparently any rifle with a magazine, any rifle capable of firing more than one or two shots at a time without reloading -- a dubious proposition. As for the Democrats' more compelling propositions -- more background checks for gun buyers and such -- they probably would not have disqualified Mateen from purchasing the guns he used. For he was already licensed as a security guard, held a Florida gun permit, and repeatedly had cleared background checks undertaken by his employer, a federal government contractor.

Also predictably enough, Republicans are using the atrocity to argue for restrictions on immigration and foreign visitors, and at last Donald Trump has figured out that while immigration and visitation cannot be restricted by religion -- not constitutionally and not practically, since no one at a border crossing would admit his adherence to a prohibited religion -- immigration and visitation can be restricted by national origin.

After the atrocity Trump and his recent rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, asserted that the United States should not be welcoming people from countries that sponsor or are infected by terrorism or that oppress women, homosexuals, and disfavored religions. Such an exclusion would cover most of Africa and all the Middle East except Israel, the only democratic country there and the refuge of many homosexual Palestinians but nevertheless the bogeyman of the political left.

As Mateen demonstrates, and as has been demonstrated by other recent acts of terrorism,  such as the Boston Marathon bombing and the Fort Hood massacre, a background in an oppressive culture can span the generations and explode unexpectedly.

Thus the atrocity in Orlando can be attributed as much to this country's negligent immigration policy as to its negligent gun policy. For our negligent immigration policy celebrates "multiculturalism" even as the culture being imported is repugnant. Europe, which is being overwhelmed by migrants who have contempt for Western values, lacks the will to defend itself and has become Eurabia, thereby showing where negligent immigration policy will take the United States.

Defending the country requires getting a lot more selective with immigration, admitting only those people who can show a firm commitment to democratic and secular culture, not mere desire to get away from someplace else. The country needs no more Afghan refugees, nor more of the Syrian refugees Connecticut's governor lately has been celebrating, nor any more immigrants from the vast expanse of primitive barbarism that constitutes Religious Crazy Land.

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

 

Conn. Democratic Incumbent Mayors Drubbed; Now What?

In three large Connecticut cities, incumbent Democratic mayors were drubbed by primary challengers. Hartford’s Mayor Pedro Segarra was outhustled and outspent by Democratic Party endorsed challenger Luke Bronin, formerly general counsel for two years to Gov. Dannel Malloy. In Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city, former mayor and felon Joe Ganim defeated Mayor Bill Finch in a three-way primary. And in New London, Mayor Darryl Finzio, more progressive than Leon Trotsky, lost to Councilman Michael Passero. One publication noted that the primary defeats of the three incumbent Democratic mayors indicated a “hunger for change” in cities long dominated by the Democratic Party. Three questions arise: What changes are in the minds of Democratic voters who turned a frozen face to incumbents? To what extent is change possible within cities dominated for decades by a single party? And why has the hunger for change not moved more voters toward the Republican Party?

The answer to the last question should be obvious: There is no serious and permanent Republican Party presence in large Connecticut cities. So small has the Republican Party footprint been in the three cities mentioned above that, it has been acknowledged by both major parties, Democratic primary elections in large urban areas determine victors in general elections.

Mr. Finch has taken the precaution of allying himself with an all-purpose third party and may challenge Mr. Ganim in a general election. However, the still intact Democratic Party machine in large cities gives Democratic Party endorsed candidates a leg-up over their competitors. Mr. Segarra is not likely to challenge Mr. Bronin in the upcoming General Election. Mr. Bronin had been blessed with a friendly nod from Mr. Malloy, the nominal head of the Democratic Party in Connecticut, during the primary and a fulsome endorsement after the primary. Mr. Malloy declined to endorse incumbent Mayor Finch, but lately he has signaled his disapproval of Mr. Ganim, without announcing that he would support Mr. Fitch over Mr. Ganim in any possible third-party challenge.

Following the election returns in Bridgeport, Mr. Malloy, according to a piece in CTMirror, hedged in response to Mr. Ganim’s victory. Was he willing to embrace Mr. Ganim’s, or would he support a challenge from Mr. Fitch?

“I’m not doing anything on that race today. I have to have some conversations and take a look at it,” said Mr. Malloy, “tersely acknowledging that Mr. Ganim’s return as mayor of Connecticut’s largest city would be awkward.”

Awkward indeed: Mr. Ganim, convicted of bribery, had spent seven years in prison before he audaciously sought to recover the position from which he was expelled. And his endeavor will likely be successful. In a one-party Democratic town, a party endorsement is tantamount to election. After the Great Fire at Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world, the Queen was asked what she thought of the fire. “Awkward,” she said.

“Obviously,” Mr. Malloy added, “the situation is an unusual one by national standards,” but not, presumably, by the operative standards in Connecticut’s larger cities, many of which have been run by the state’s dominant Democratic Party for decades.

A report by WNPR noted: “Bronin raised over $800,000,” about twice as much as Mr. Segarra, “which allowed him, among other things, to advertise heavily on television and to send out an impressive number of political mailers. (Some recent ones included images of and praise from Governor Dannel Malloy, who campaign aides say hadn't approved their use.)”

This disclaimer – that Mr. Bronin’s former boss had not approved the subtle gubernatorial endorsements included in the mailers – follows hard on the heels of a suit brought against Mr. Malloy by the State Republican Party that claims the governor made use in his own campaign of mailers that may have run afoul of Connecticut’s stringent campaign finance laws.

Bridgeport, labeled by Ken Dixon of the Connecticut Post, formerly the Bridgeport post, "a seething mass of patronage," presents Mr. Malloy, the Queen mother of the Democratic Party in Connecticut, with a taxing problem. Should the father of the state’s “second chance” society torpedo Mr. Ganim’s march to the mayoralty perhaps, as columnist and Managing Editor of the {Manchester} Journal Inquirer Chris Powell has suggested, by threatening to turn off the patronage tap in Bridgeport? Or should Mr. Malloy simply bow to the fait accompli Mr. Ganim has managed to pull off and count himself lucky that the Republican Party is so weak and inconsequential in Democratic cities that, taken together, have assured both his election and re-election to office?

Either way, Mr. Malloy wins. But one can see in Mr. Malloy’s furrowed brow his political conscience tousling furiously with his political opportunities. Tammany Hall boss George Washington Plunkitt, tortured by such tugs and pulls of conscience, most often yielded to his opportunistic good angel: “I seen my opportunities, and I took’em.”

Don Pesci is  Vernon, Conn.-based political writer.

Chris Powell: Clinton's vast fee and UConn Foundation slush fund

  MANCHESTER, Conn.

Hillary Clinton,  ex-presidential spouse, former U.S. senator, secretary of state and likely presidential candidate, came to the University of Connecticut a few weeks ago and prattled about equality -- for which the university's foundation paid her $251,000.

As the extraordinary speaking fee has come under criticism, the university's defense has been that Clinton wasn't paid with state tax money or even with the university's own, that the foundation used money donated for a speakers program by a family in New Haven with various business interests. This defense is pathetic:

-- While the foundation is nominally separate from the university, it consists largely of university administrators and former students and the university pays it $8 million a year for fundraising. The foundation does nothing  that the administration doesn't want it to do.

-- The foundation exists only to use the university's name and to support its mission. If the foundation does something that can be defended only by purporting to separate the foundation from the university and state taxpayers, it disparages the university as well.

-- Somebody at UConn decided that paying Clinton $251,000 for one banal presentation was better than paying $50,000 each for five lecturers or $25,000 each for 10 or $5,000 each for 50. Since UConn President Susan Herbst spent much time on the stage in conversation with Clinton, it's a fair assumption that the decision ultimately was Herbst's and that her vanity figured in it.

-- Exactly for whom was it better for UConn to use all that money for just one speaker? Was it better for UConn's students, to whom the event was limited, giving them a look at the likely Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, as if presidential candidates don't eventually hold many campaign events in public?

Or was it better mainly for the university administration, Connecticut's Democratic state administration, and Fusco family business interests, all of which got to ingratiate themselves with someone who has a good chance of becoming president, just as investment houses like Goldman Sachs and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts have ingratiated themselves with Clinton, paying millions to her and her family's foundation as advance bribes?

After The Washington Post reported this month that she recently had taken extravagant speaking fees from eight universities, including UConn, Clinton told ABC News that she had donated all the money to her family's foundation, "so it goes from a foundation at a university to another foundation."

That is, the money went from a foundation Clinton did not control to a foundation whose disbursements she  can control, a foundation she can staff with her friends and campaign associates, a foundation that can be used in part as political patronage.

Clinton's speaking fee at UConn is still more evidence that the UConn Foundation is largely a slush fund for university officials, the mechanism by which they get to do what they wouldn't dare do with official government money.

Before the foundation paid Clinton's extravagant fee, it was employing two presidents at once, the old one being paid nearly a half million dollars per year while the salary of the new one was kept secret; it was spending $600,000 to buy a mansion in Hartford for Herbst so she might continue to schmooze and overawe state officials when inviting them to the president's mansion on the Storrs campus a half hour away might seem too burdensome; and it was even paying for Governor Malloy's international travel.

The foundation should be deprived of its exemption from Connecticut's freedom-of-information law and its board should be separated from university officials and made more independent.

Or else the foundation should start offering Republican presidential candidates a quarter million dollars to speak. At least some of  them might be politically incorrect and thus interesting or even outrageous rather than merely banal and corrupt.

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

Chris Powell: A bridge too far for Malloy?

MANCHESTER, Conn.

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy's prospects for a second term may be determined by how many more times before Nov. 4 that troublesome 118-year-old railroad drawbridge in Norwalk malfunctions and stops traffic on the busiest commuter rail line in the country, Metro-North. Accidents and other breakdowns on Metro-North in the last year have discredited state government more than anything else has.

While Metro-North is a New York state agency, Connecticut is responsible for the maintenance of its own tracks and rail cars, whose neglect is acknowledged and arises far more from the administrations of Malloy's predecessors than from his own.

While the railroad was being neglected, Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. found millions of dollars for subsidizing a professional hockey team in Hartford and buying the Bridgeport zoo. Gov. John G. Rowland found hundreds of millions for the Adriaen's Landing project, in Hartford, and the Rentschler Field football stadium, in East Hartford. And Gov. Jodi Rell found hundreds of millions for the ineffectual bloat she called education and for stem-cell research. Now the financial and political bills have come due under Malloy.

But the current governor isn't entirely innocent. For he found hundreds of millions for the bus highway from New Britain to Hartford, and its imminent completion is corresponding embarrassingly with the trouble on Metro-North. The governor also has found hundreds of millions for what he calls economic development, grants to politically favored corporations, what others call corporate welfare. And he has worsened the education scam.

The obsolescence of the Norwalk drawbridge has been known for many years. So if upon taking office the governor had decided that fixing the railroad rather than building the busway would be his signature transportation project, Connecticut would not now be facing a problem he admits is outrageous.

And just as Malloy is getting stuck with the financial and political costs of his predecessors, he will bestow on his successors his own financial and political costs, like the foregone taxes and loan repayments from the politically favored companies; the operational expense of the busway, whose buses likely will run mostly empty even if New Britain's minor-league baseball team leaves for the $60 million stadium proposed by Hartford officials; and worsening social promotion from elementary school to college.

Governors are not really peculiar this way. Municipal officials neglect basic maintenance of everything from schools to sewers so that money can be diverted to increasing the compensation of unionized municipal employees. The assumption is that roofs will leak and heating systems fail on someone else's watch, or at least after the next election.

There is just nothing glamorous about maintenance and there is no fun in budgeting for it, nothing shiny to put one's name on, no heroism in proclaiming that something that long has worked and has been taken for granted will continue working because it was properly cared for. What has been taken for granted will continue to be.

Dazzled by office and the deference of supplicants, politicians need the public to keep them grounded in the real world, even as civic engagement in Connecticut, as measured by voter participation, long has been declining.

But at least a few dozen Hartford residents turned up at this week's City Council meeting to scold Mayor Pedro Segarra and council members for their stadium scheme. The people complained that stadiums never produce municipal revenue, that they amuse mainly outsiders, and that the urgent needs of the city are prosaic --such as maintenance of schools and roads.

Having arrogantly pronounced the stadium a "done deal" just a few days earlier, the mayor and City Council President Shawn T. Wooden quickly backtracked to say that more communication about the project is needed. This got them out of the meeting alive but scrutiny can only kill the stadium plan.

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