The narrative at the beginning of the legislative session centered around Gov. Dannel P. Malloy butting heads with Democratic legislative leaders, but in the end with just hours left in the session that narrative never played out.
House Speaker Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said this is the first time in many years that Democrats had a governor who was not fighting against the legislature. He said people speculated there would be internal Democratic battles between the legislature and the first Democratic governor in 20 years, but “it was all about substance over style.”
Not even the two-year, $40.11 billion budget, which includes about $800 million in spending cuts, $2.6 billion in tax increases, and asks for $1.6 billion in union concessions created many inner party fights.
Aside from the fiscal harmony, there was also plenty of agreement on a social agenda. The governor and Democrat-controlled legislature worked together on things such as in-state tuition for undocumented residents, paid sick days, decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, a transgender rights bill, earned income tax credit, and health care pooling. Many of those pieces of legislation didn’t have the support of former Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who stymied their passage by the Democrat-controlled legislature and in some instances vetoed the proposals.
“I’m blessed to work with a great House Democratic caucus,” Donovan added. “If we do have problems we work them out. We don’t get mad, we work things out.”
Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said the Democrat vs. Democrat narrative “gives pundits something to write about,” but there was never any truth to it. “People predicted that there would be no budget on time and that we would be here fighting, Democratic legislators against a Democratic governor, but they were wrong.”
“We have a governor who stood behind his proposals, which is what we would expect from a governor,” Williams said.
Republican lawmakers, who were sidelined for budget negotiations, said Malloy was “phenomenally successful in shoving his agenda” through the General Assembly practically neutering the legislature as a separate and equal branch of government. Republicans were left with few tools to slow down what they described as “a moving freight train.”
“The irony of all this is it’s not the will of the populous of the state,” House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said Wednesday “Connecticut has always taken pride in its moderate lifestyle.”
Cafero agreed this New York Times article summed up appropriately the direction of the session as the most liberal and progressive in recent memory.
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said that’s because it’s the first time a Republican or Independent hasn’t been in the governor’s office to stop the liberal legislature.
“What I believe is that the legislature, as a majority, does not accurately reflect a majority people in the state of Connecticut,” McKinney said. “A lot of things that the more liberal or progressive wing of the Democratic party tried to adopt in the past has been stopped by a Republican or Independent governor. That’s no longer the case.”
According to the New York Times article, Malloy is taking the state in a different direction than other traditionally Democratic states such as New York and New Jersey.
McKinney agreed. “Even Governor Malloy has said I’m taking this state in a direction other states aren’t going in,” he said.
Williams didn’t necessarily agree. It’s not exactly a liberal, progressive approach, but a “middle of the road approach,” to balancing its budget and not cutting education aid and funding for cities and towns, Williams said.
Republicans respectfully disagree.
Cafero said when Malloy won election he touted himself as a fiscal conservative and a social moderate.
“He’s a tax and spender, whose to the left of most issues,” Cafero said.