Governor makes cynical use of his executive pen [Waterbury Republican-American]

March 12, 2014

Op-Ed as it appeared in the Waterbury Republican-American

President Obama’s threat to act by executive order is not unique. In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has used the power of the executive order to co-opt and neutralize opponents’ proposals, cater to factions within his own party and even usurp his own party’s legislative initiatives — all while avoiding legislative oversight and public accountability.

The sheer number of executive orders issued by Malloy in the first three years of his administration, compared with those of his recent predecessors during the first three years of their tenures, is startling: Malloy, 40; M. Jodi Rell, 16; John G. Rowland, 17; Lowell P. Weicker Jr., 10; William A. O’Neill, eight.

Numbers do not tell the whole story. Malloy has used executive orders cynically to pay lip service to important issues while masking glaring failures in his administration.

Immediately upon taking office, Malloy issued Executive Order No. 1, which he claimed would fulfill one of his central campaign promises: to bring stability and integrity to Connecticut’s budget process by implementing Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). That year, 2011, there were many legislative proposals to transition to GAAP, none of which the governor endorsed.

To transition the state to fiscal accountability under GAAP, Malloy promised to manage and report the state budget in compliance with GAAP standards, which includes acknowledging debt load. He also promised to make annual payments on this debt. He decried past policies that “kicked the can down the road.”

Three years later, not only has Malloy failed to construct his budgets using GAAP, but he has failed to pay one dime toward retiring the GAAP deficit.

Facing criticism for his historic $1 billion tax increase and Connecticut’s continued drop in national rankings for economic competitiveness and job growth, Malloy issued another optimistic-sounding executive order. Executive Order No. 17, from January 2012, created the “Governor’s Business Tax Policy Review Taskforce.” It was comprised of the governor’s own commissioners of Revenue Services and Economic and Community Development, and hand-picked tax and business experts.

After diligently working for months, the task force issued recommendations, including eliminating the corporate tax surcharge, minimum corporate tax and business entity tax; phasing down sales taxes on consumer purchases and phasing out taxes on certain business-to-business transactions; and adoption of a cap on individual estate tax liability.

Significantly, but perhaps not surprisingly, not one of these recommendations has been implemented. In fact, Malloy’s budgets have included extensions and increases in the very taxes his own task force recommended eliminating: a 20 percent corporate tax surcharge, a new tax on electric generation, an increase in the sales-tax rate, and increases of the gasoline tax, rental-car and hotel-occupancy taxes. The result: a recent Kiplinger report ranked Connecticut the second-least tax-friendly state in the nation.