Rep-Am: Governor Should Partner with Republicans Fasano & Klarides [Editorial]

April 18, 2016

Republican-American Editorial

No one doubts that Connecticut faces challenges in the 2016-17 fiscal year that begins July 1. The legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis has projected the $20.4 billion budget approved last summer by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Democratic-controlled legislature is $933 million in deficit. This week, Gov. Malloy presented his second revised budget. (The first was unveiled during the governor’s Feb. 3 State of the State address.) “Our expectations need to change. We cannot afford to fund everything as we have in the past,” he said. “And we need to change the way we budget.”

Gov. Malloy’s proposal is better than the farcical packages that recently were approved by two legislative committees. Nonetheless, it leaves much to be desired. One fairly can surmise the governor is losing some of his will to challenge Big Public Labor.

News reports indicate Gov. Malloy’s plan would take on the entire 2016-17 deficit, as compared with the legislative packages that stop at $570 million. It ostensibly would erase the deficit by, among other things, employing “budget shifts,” the Republican-American reported April 13. Particularly controversial is a provision that would redirect “a share of sales tax receipts that had been dedicated to ease municipal reliance on local property taxes,” according to the Republican-American. It has been criticized by municipal officials and Democratic legislators.

This proposal doesn’t constitute a serious effort to control state spending. Gov. Malloy may be giving in to state-employee unions, which spurned his recent request to renegotiate deals that prohibit state government from changing unionized workers’ pension and health benefits before 2022.

We and Senate Minority Leader Leonard A. Fasano, R-North Haven, had urged Gov. Malloy to rally the public to pressure the unions to renegotiate. The governor’s office apparently heard from residents who were angry about the unions’ obstinacy.

Labor — which recommends policymakers remedy the fiscal crisis by repealing some tax breaks, and increasing taxes on wealthy residents and corporations — has been critical of Gov. Malloy not only for pushing for a renegotiation, but for laying off some state employees. The governor may have decided to cut his losses. Unions provide valuable political support to Connecticut Democrats. Needless to say, the governor’s actions are disappointing.

Interestingly, under Gov. Malloy’s proposal, non-union state employees would be on the hook for 20 percent of their annual health-care costs, compared with 12 percent at present.

Hopefully, Gov. Malloy will reconsider his stance on pension and health-care benefits.

He also would be wise to partner with Republican legislators — led by Sen. Fasano and Rep. Themis Klarides of Derby — and moderate Democrats to make structural changes to the budget.

The GOP caucuses recently recommended subjecting all labor contracts to legislative approval; capping state bonding; and stepping up oversight of state-employee overtime.