The Malloy administration offered a wonderful gift to Republicans and lazy columnists looking for something to write about just as the holidays knocked on our doorsteps. Rank-and-file taxpayers, on the other hand, might view it a little differently.
At approximately 4:30 p.m., late in the day before Christmas Eve, Gian-Carl Casa, the undersecretary of policy and management, bravely emailed a press release he obviously hoped no one would notice.
A few moments earlier, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, budget chief Ben Barnes, and Administrative Services Commissioner Donald DeFronzo had signed an executive order bestowing generous raises on 200 political appointees. The list itself was quite impressive:
Something like 36 agency heads and deputies received 12 percent increases.
The embattled Joette Katz, who was recently reappointed commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, will see her salary escalate from $153,831 to $172,291, even as her own agency’s board-and-care residential program is slated to endure budget cuts of $6.3 million.
Barnes himself will see his salary rise from $186,999 to $209,439. The salary of Casa, the author of the stealthy press release, will also climb 12 percent to $151,200. The raises come as the state is facing projected budget deficits of about $1 billion for each of the next two fiscal years. And during those two years, the Malloy mantra of “shared sacrifice” will no doubt be repeated as he looks for ways to close another yawning gap.
Mind you, both unionized state employees and managers also received 3-percent raises last summer. And managers can receive earned merit increases in January.
The Dec. 23 expressions of good cheer to his staff must be Malloy’s way of saying, “Happy Festivus!” As for the rest of us in the private sector, we’ll continue to limp along with raises of one percent, if we’re lucky, along with co-payment increases in our healthcare and our wretched defined-contribution retirement plans.
Perhaps Malloy’s actions will speak louder than the words of John F. Kennedy and motivate an entire generation of Nutmeggers to aspire to public service. We can only hope at least some good will come out of the Festivus news dump.
Meanwhile, word arrived last week that families of nine people massacred two years ago at a Newtown school, along with one survivor, are suing Bushmaster Firearms, the manufacturer of the weapon used by deranged gunman Adam Lanza, as well as the weapon’s distributor and seller.
The negligence and wrongful death lawsuit claims the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used to kill 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School should “not have been entrusted to the general public because it is a military assault weapon.”
Observers had expected a suit like this, but it seems like quite a reach. The manufacturer clearly acted within the law. And isn’t it up to the authorities to determine what should not be “entrusted to the general public?”
There isn’t a whole lot left in Nancy Lanza’s estate and the town now owns her home. Suing the state, town, or school district would merely put taxpayers on the hook and would, therefore be quite unpopular. So where to find an unpopular target with deep pockets?
The manufacturer of a toaster that sets a house on fire is clearly negligent in marketing a defective appliance. But in the case of Sandy Hook, Bushmaster’s product worked exactly as it was designed to. The shooter fired 156 rounds as quickly as possible. The firearm worked with deadly efficiency.
The real injustice is that a mentally ill young adult failed to receive the help he needed and was not only able to gain access to his mother’s AR-15 but to multiple 30-round ammunition clips that minimized the number of times he would have to stop and reload.
The surviving families won’t get buckets of cash from mounting a campaign to pressure legislators to improve access to mental health care or prevent access to the AR-15s. But it’s bound to be more effective than the lawsuit to nowhere.
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