I always love the turning of the year, because for a brief moment it’s possible to believe that the year ahead will be better than the one we’re leaving behind. So with that in mind, let’s take stock of where we’ve been, and where we’re going.
In December of 2013 I made a few predictions about how 2014 would shape up. I thought that Tom Foley would be the GOP nominee, that Dan Malloy would narrowly win the governor’s race, and that all of the congressional Democrats would win.
I’m usually horrible with predictions (someone once called a prediction I made about a candidate winning an election “the kiss of death” — and so it was), so I’m mystified by how accurate I turned out to be. That might just be a good illustration of how static the political landscape remained in Connecticut throughout the year, though. Very little of significance changed in any of those races from start to finish, and after the dust had settled we were left with the status quo.
So what about the future? What about 2015? Well, we voted for that status quo in November, and that’s exactly what we’re going to get.
Gov. Malloy has promised to focus on transportation as his big issue in 2015, but like a lot of second-term governors with big plans, he’s going to run into a wall of indifference and caution.
I’d love to believe that there’s powerful momentum for transit and transportation funding in the legislature, but without a politically easy way to pay for all of it a real revolution in transportation in Connecticut is going to be a tough sell. Nobody wants toll booths or another hike in the gas tax, after all.
My guess is that we’re going to see a package passed that increases funds here and there but doesn’t actually change anything, and that it’s going to be hailed as a victory.
Welcome to Deficitland (again)
The state’s finances have teetered on the edge for a while, and the state’s going to have to make yet another round of tough decisions in order to stave off another deficit. Right now, deficits of about $1 billion for the next two fiscal years have been projected, and the governor has promised that there won’t be any new taxes this time. Unless the government and the public employee unions start getting serious about reworking or cutting pensions, salaries, and benefits, big service cuts are looming.
Look for the state university system to take some big hits, as has been the trend. It’s possible that a DMV, a prison, or a courthouse will close down, as well — that was what Malloy threatened in 2011 during that year’s fight with the unions. Watch also for the return of gimmicks and complicated math to close the gap.
Right to die? Low-wage workers’ rights? The death penalty? All hot-button issues, but don’t expect much from this legislature. A renewed Republican Party and a focus on deficits and the economy will probably preclude a lot of progress on these issues. This is not going to make progressives any happier with Gov. Malloy.
The municipal elections slated for the fall of 2015 won’t be barn burners, but they will be a chance for Democrats to regain some lost ground. Races to watch will be Hartford, Simsbury, and maybe one or two others. New Britain could be interesting, for instance, depending on who runs. Look for Democrats to reverse losses in smaller cities and rural areas.
The busway running between Hartford and New Britain is going to be a success. If it isn’t, I’ll be shocked — and I’ll be sure to say so in this space.
Malloy’s National Profile Rises
He’s going to be the chair of the Democratic Governors Association during the 2016 elections, and he’s already made headlines for winning in a year when Democrats everywhere else lost. Is his star on the rise? I kind of doubt it, but the conditions are favorable.
The economy isn’t going to catch fire anytime soon. Little improvements here and there in infrastructure will help, and the state will continue to slowly add jobs. A big improvement in the economy isn’t on the horizon.
In conclusion, the status quo can be frustrating, but it can also be a relief after years of rapid changes and unpredictability. Steady habits, right?
In any case, here’s hoping for a brighter and happier New Year!
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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