Fasano versus Sharkey (Rep-Am)

October 2, 2015

Waterbury Editorial blog

For some weeks, Connecticut Senate Minority Leader Leonard A. Fasano, R-North Haven, has urged Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders to call the legislatureinto special session, in part to revise the 2015-17 budget. Sen. Fasano stepped up this call after trouble on Wall Street forced the Malloy administration to order nearly $103 million in emergency spending cuts on the fiscal year 2015-16 side of the budget Sept. 18. Under this round of cuts, Connecticut’s hospitals are taking an especially big hit.

House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, is not amused by Sen. Fasano’s special-session call. In a Sept. 28 letter to the senator, Speaker Sharkey declared emphatically that a special session is out of the question. He claimed a special session to restore aid to hospitals would spark a fight between the legislature and Gov. Malloy that would accomplish nothing. The speaker accused Sen. Fasano of “playing politics by grandstanding for a pointless gesture.” Read the letter in full right here.

Speaker Sharkey’s point is debatable. At least in theory, if the governor and legislature were to work together, there would be nothing for them to fight about. I would posit that the speaker may have a selfish reason for opposing a special session.

The budget was approved in late June by Gov. Malloy and all but four Democratic legislators; not a single Republican lawmaker voted for the budget. Judging by their comments at the time, the Capitol Democrats believed the budget to be the best thing since sliced bread.

Gov. Malloy said, “I believe we have a budget that helps deliver prosperity for the future.” Speaker Sharkey said, “We listened to the concerns of our constituents and business community to make it work better for everyone in our state, and begin to set us on a more stable, equitable path going forward.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney of New Haven said, “This budget levels the playing field for small businesses from Main Street to our largest employers and makes a once-in-a-generation investment in transportation infrastructure. We did this while preserving core programs for our most vulnerable children and seniors.”

We and others warned that the budget was a disaster waiting to happen. In an editorial published July 2, we cited the budget’s spending increases, as well as its reliance on gimmickry and unpredictable revenue sources. “When this house of cards collapses, Gov. Malloy and his legislative supporters will have no one to blame but themselves,” we wrote. Recent news reports indicate the budget troubles that prompted the Malloy administration’s cuts were caused by the state’sreliance on income-tax receipts tied to the stock market’s performance, one of the budget flaws we highlighted in the July 2 editorial and several others.

In this environment, if Speaker Sharkey, Gov. Malloy and company were to take Sen. Fasano’s advice, they would tacitly admit they dropped the budget ball back in June. It is hard to see how that would benefit Connecticut Democrats’ brand.

Sen. Fasano’s special-session call may not be going anywhere, but the senator is absolutely correct in calling attention to the state’s flawed-to-the-core budget.

Unfortunate though it is, the incompetence of Gov. Malloy, Speaker Sharkey and their friends stands to cause a whale of trouble for Connecticut residents and businesses.

If anyone is playing politics, it is the Democrats in the driver’s seat under the state Capitol’s iconic gold dome.