Watching last weekâ€™s hearing of the General Assemblyâ€™s Transportation Committee about highway tolls, last yearâ€™s Republican nominee for governor, Bob Stefanowski, mused that the election might have turned out differently if the Democrats had run on what has become their post-election platform: toll gantries every few hundred yards and school district consolidation. Stefanowski also might have mentioned the plan of Gov. Ned â€śChange Starts Nowâ€ť Lamont to raise the sales tax by nearly a billion dollars a year.
If Connecticut residents donâ€™t exactly want to be lied to, the state is in such a mess that they are not eager to hear the truth either, since that would require consideration of alternatives as politically unpleasant as what the Democrats propose. Even Stefanowski now acknowledges that his campaign was short on specifics.
At least some Republicans are noting that the stateâ€™s transportation fund would produce plenty of money if the automobile sales tax revenue that is scheduled to be devoted to it in coming years wasnâ€™t instead diverted to the general fund as the governor proposes.
At last weekâ€™s hearing Len Suzio, Meridenâ€™s former Republican senator, elicited a remarkable admission: that ubiquitous tolls are being advocated by the Democrats even before the governor and the legislature settle on an infrastructure plan and thus before anyone has a good idea of how much the transportation fund really needs.
So the advocates of tolls just want to grab as much money as they can as far away as possible from the next election. Moving auto sales tax revenue out of the general fund and into the transportation fund was a great idea for shoring up the latter fund, but of course it was sure to blow a big hole in the revenue for the rest of state government. While the Democrats are contradicting the poses they struck in their campaign last year, now that they are firmly in charge at least they have drawn the arithmetical conclusions by springing tolls and more sales taxes on everyone.
By contrast, while Republican legislators are unanimously against tolls, they have yet to offer any proposals for saving substantial money in state or municipal government. The Republicans seem to figure that there is nothing to gain from that much civic responsibility.
For while the Republicans might educate the public a little about, say, state governmentâ€™s tyrannical â€śfixed costsâ€ť and the need to unfix them, the Democrats still will have enough of a majority in the legislature to enact whatever they want. If the Republicans go much beyond casting â€śnoâ€ť votes, proceeding to suggest ways of saving serious money, they might make as many enemies as friends.
As was written long ago, â€śthe prophets prophesy falsely, the priests rule by their word, and the people love to have it so, but what will be the end?â€ť
Youâ€™re looking at it: rapacious, insolvent, but ineffectual state government. Ironically, the elected official doing the greatest service for economy in government in Connecticut may be a Democrat, Waterbury Mayor Neil Oâ€™Leary.
Through binding arbitration the struggling city has achieved a contract with its teachers union that freezes salaries for a year. While this restraint is modest, the teachers are freaking out. At a hearing last week dozens of them interrupted, booed, and jeered the mayor before walking out on him as he tried to explain the cityâ€™s difficult position.
Oâ€™Leary is seeking re-election this year. Can a Democrat who presumes to represent the public interest more than the government employee unions survive politically?
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.