After two months of town hall meetings, discussions, and legislative jockeying, the past two weeks have unfolded with almost breathtaking speed.
Barely a day after the General Assembly’s Republican caucuses unveiled their alternative budget that eliminated the state’s $3.3 billion deficit without tax hikes, the Governor and Democratic leaders in the legislature had their own announcement: a budget deal that maintained most of Governor’s framework plus a small legislative wishlist.
With the deal in place and an intense anxiety about a “No Tax Increase Budget” siphoning away votes from Gov. Malloy’s big tax hikes, the budget is now racing through the legislature before the public can weigh in on the issue.
That legislators are elected to represent the public in the General Assembly seems not to matter to a leadership that has become obviously out-of-touch with the sentiments of regular people. Protests about the panoply of tax increases seem to grow with each passing day but the promise of billions of dollars in new spending in future years is too much to resist for Democratic legislators. Priorities have to come first.
For Governor Malloy, the writing is already on the wall. The pain and unpopularity of big tax hikes incurred now in the first year of his term will be, they hope, offset by the popularity won by spending all that extra revenue in the future.
Democratic legislators confronting elections in November 2012 are left to assuage their fears by reminding themselves that President Barack Obama will be on the ballot above them.
Taxpayers, on the other hand, will foot the bill for these excesses – for a little while. With one of the heaviest tax burdens in the nation, among the highest gas prices, electricity prices, and housing costs, a budget deal that actually increases costs in each of these categories inch the state ever closer to the economic precipice. Only the growing stock market and the abundant wealth it produces for a select few can, and will, distort the numbers into making most people believe that everything is fine.
It will be the small businessperson, the young entrepreneurs, and those just starting out that will seek out greener economic pastures, eroding the character of Connecticut’s communities and leaving a population older, slower, and more expensive to care for in their wake.
After Benjamin Franklin left the Constitutional convention in 1787, he was asked about the government formed there. He famously replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” In these days, when the people’s representatives seem so keen to rush historic tax hikes through the General Assembly before the people can fully express their views on the issue, it seems that Franklin’s admonition now stands differently: a democracy, if you can catch it.
Heath W. Fahle served as executive director of the Connecticut Republican Party from 2007-2009. Contact Heath about this article by visiting www.heathwfahle.com