In a city that smells like the remnants of a keg party, Dannel Malloy is no doubt relieved to be nosing fresh breezes at Milwaukee’s lakefront technology museum, Discovery World, where he can summon his inner wonkiness and enjoy seminars on scintillating topics like correction department reform and state tools for healthcare cost containment.
But such is the life of Connecticut’s chief executive. Unless your state is California or New York, there’s little glamour in the job. Congressmen and senators can bloviate, attend Georgetown cocktail parties, hold press conferences, and threaten to shut down the government. Governors, however, must actually get things done and, sometimes, step on lots of toes.
As Walker, the Wisconsin governor, said in a release, “While Washington is gridlocked most days, states are not. Governors are focused on finding solutions to our most pressing challenges.” I might add that so, too, are mayors and selectmen focused on finding solutions to problems. Indeed, just about everyone is so focused and determined, because if they are not thus occupied then they have to worry about being primaried or otherwise finding themselves out of a job come November in Washington.
Be that as it may, buried in the weeds among the NGA’s seminars on cybersecurity and the condition of America’s infrastructure are some subjects that will surely have meaning for the governor. Here are a couple to watch:
There is unsettling news on the healthcare front in Connecticut. Obamacare seems to be in trouble, as the Obama administration has delayed implementation of the employer mandate until 2015. Two prominent GOP governors, Walker and Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, have flatly called for repeal of the law. Even Democratic governors are nervous about the implementation of the law. And many states, including Connecticut, are reeling under the fiscal weight of Medicaid expansion ushered in by Obamacare.
One Hartford-based insurance company, Aetna, has declined to participate in Connecticut’s health insurance exchanges. Another Connecticut-based insurer, ConnectiCare, has declined to participate in the exchange’s small group market for businesses.
Interestingly, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Reps. John Larson and Elizabeth Esty have personally opted out of those exchanges set up to buy health insurance under Obamacare.
Perhaps after hearing tales of woe from other governors, Malloy will reconsider his shortsighted veto of a bill last month that would have made it easier for the non-profit Waterbury Hospital to be acquired by the investor-owned Vanguard Health Systems. And many Connecticut hospitals, including Waterbury, are laying off workers, struggling as they are from the $550 million in devastating aid cuts the Malloy administration has made.
On the economic front, Connecticut’s unemployment rate of 8.1 percent continues to lag behind the rest of the nation. Perhaps Malloy will learn something from Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who chairs the NGA. Markell is showcasing his initiative on employing people with disabilities. If implemented, Markell’s strategy could expand the skilled labor force and increase employment, while helping the bottom line of the private sector.
Too bad I didn’t notice any NGA seminars on how to tackle the unfunded pension liabilities plaguing so many states. That could really come in handy because Connecticut has one of the highest pension liabilities in the nation. Our unfunded liabilities are equivalent to 190 percent of annual tax revenues, second only to Wisconsin’s totally dysfunctional neighbor, Illinois, at 241 percent.
Considering his previous efforts to brand himself nationally, it’s a bit strange that Malloy has kept a low profile during the NGA conference. Then again, from what I can tell, there are no Connecticut reporters covering him in Milwaukee. In the old days of the fat legacy media, there would have been several journos tagging along, peppering the chief executive with questions about the various policy initiatives of governors from faraway places.
Not anymore. We can only hope that when they return to Hartford someone in the Capitol press corps asks Malloy and Chief of Staff Mark Ojakian what taxpayers got for their $942 plane fare, nice meals, and several nights in the Milwaukee Hilton.