Separating themselves from and even repudiating their partyâ€™s own leader, Governor Malloy, increasingly seems to be the objective of the convention-endorsed candidates for the top of the Democratic state ticket, governor candidate Ned Lamont and lieutenant governor candidate Susan Bysiewicz.
While Democrats have controlled state government for eight years, Lamont has begun broadcasting a television commercial charging that â€śConnecticut has done a lousy job training our folks for 21st-century jobs.â€ť
This ad follows one from Lamont complaining that Connecticutâ€™s middle class has been â€śgetting slammedâ€ť by state taxes.
The other day Bysiewicz acknowledged â€śabusesâ€ť in state employee pension benefits, particularly the use of an employeeâ€™s last three years of salary and overtime to calculate benefits. Pensions, Bysiewicz said, should be calculated by career-average salary, which would produce smaller pensions. Further, Bysiewicz long has been stressing she has had no connection to the Malloy administration.
The governorâ€™s unpopularity puts Lamont and Bysiewicz in a difficult position.
But can they separate themselves from his record without prompting voters to wonder why they should put any Democrats back into state office?
Sympathetic to Lamont, Hartford Courant columnist Colin McEnroe writes that the candidate aims â€śto get elected and make all kinds of hard decisions,â€ť including raising taxes and imposing tolls. But raising taxes and imposing tolls are the easy decisions.
Thatâ€™s why Governor Malloy and the Democratic majorities in the General Assembly twice have imposed and gotten away with record-breaking tax increases in the last eight years. Thatâ€™s why in 1991 Governor Weicker imposed the state income tax on a reluctant legislature that still managed to return to office in the next election with the exact same Democratic majority, as if nothing had happened.
What is hard in Connecticut is reducing spending or even just auditing spending to see whether it accomplishes anything besides political gratification. Thatâ€™s why it is never done.
Republican governor primary candidate Steve Obsitnik, who seems to offer little more than his military service and computer programming expertise, says that on his first day as governor he would declare a financial emergency. But everyone already knows there is an emergency. The question is exactly what to do about it.
Obsitnikâ€™s emergency entails only a few months of negotiations with the state employee unions to cancel their parting gift from Governor Malloy, the 10-year extension of their master contract. If the unions donâ€™t capitulate, Obsitnik says, heâ€™ll invoke the stateâ€™s sovereign immunity to break the contract. Good luck with that.
A real emergency would suspend if not repeal collective bargaining and binding arbitration for state and municipal employee union contracts and unfix all the incapacitating â€śfixed costsâ€ť in state government, particularly those of education and welfare policy.
Last week the governor issued a statement praising Pope Francis for â€świsdomâ€ť in rewriting church doctrine to condemn capital punishment in all circumstances. But now that the governor is recommending the pope and the church as exemplars of public policy, what about their opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage?
Or is the governor really celebrating only his own politically correct version of what is derided as cafeteria Catholicism?
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.