Conservative state lawmakers rallied with around 600 Tea Party Patriots at the state Capitol Friday, denouncing the $1.5 billion in tax increases included in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget.
Though he admitted Malloy and the state’s Democratic majority could pass a budget without a single Republican vote, Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, said he doesn’t believe the two branches are seeing eye-to-eye just yet.
Suzio said that at a recent meeting with Meriden officials, House Speaker Chris Donovan said he and the governor are not on the same page regarding the budget, indicating to him there are still differences even among Democrats.
But a spokesperson for Donovan said that, while the details have yet to be ironed out, he and the Democratic caucus have always agreed with the framework of the governor’s budget. Donovan himself on the way to meeting at the Capitol said they didn’t even talk about the governor’s budget proposal at the meeting Suzio is referencing. He said they talked about what could be done for the local community and some of that involved the budget, but most of it didn’t.
Friday’s rally was an opportunity for Republicans to stand together, Suzio said. It’s important for state conservatives to learn a lesson from national Republicans who, he said have established themselves as representing the middle class. They can do that by unanimously rejecting any budget proposal that contains tax increases, he said.
Suzio’s message resonated with the crowd, many of whom came with signs criticizing the tax hikes. The rally included both elected officials and some open mic time for average citizens who were encouraged to speak their minds.
Ed Lapointe of Vernon, a retired Connecticut Natural Gas employee, carried a sign that said “Malloy you win. We are moving out of Conn.” Lapointe said he drove out to Nevada two weeks ago to look at property and not one of the 22 states he passed through on his journey had gas rates as high as Connecticut’s.
At times the Tax Day event seemed a little like a Republican pep rally, with many state lawmakers either speaking or standing to be recognized. And while most of the crowd’s criticism seemed directed at the governor, not everyone there was onboard with the Grand Old Party.
Dick Zaino of Farmington said the Tea Party began as an unpolitical movement made up of people generally disgusted with both parties. But one of Zaino’s many signs read “CT Needs More Conservative Republicans Not RINOs.”
Zaino said the vast majority of the Republicans in the statehouse are Republicans in name only.
“That’s our problem. They just vote right along with the liberal agenda,” he said.
Zaino he didn’t want to name any specific legislators but said he doesn’t understand why, regardless of who gets elected, Connecticut remains such a blue state. Zaino, who owns his own business, said he has grave concerns about the future of small businesses who are being taxed “to death.”
Despite Friday’s agreeable weather, Joan Somerville said she was disappointed by the turnout of the rally. Somerville recalled a similar rally two decades ago when former Gov. Lowell Wiecker, Jr. proposed the state’s first income tax.
Somerville estimated the crowd that gathered to oppose the tax at ten times the size of Friday’s crowd.
“At that rally every piece of grass was covered,” she said, pointing to the visible turf behind the North step of the capitol. “This is a disappointing rally.”