How do you fix a huge, persistent deficit? Legislative Democrats, Republicans, and the governor all have different answers as the budget clock starts ticking down. There has to be a happy medium somewhere, but nobody seems interested in finding it.
Here are the basics so far: the governor’s budget closes the deficit everyone saw coming but nobody bothered preparing for by slashing services like libraries, social services, and state universities. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy claims it’s the result of tough decision-making, but it’s also the result of Malloy being hemmed in both by campaign promises and his shaky relationship with the state employee unions. In essence his budget passes the savings on to all of us who use state services. It’s massively unpopular.
Republicans, on the other hand, have no problem going after what they see as over fed and out-of-touch state employee unions. Their budget proposal asks for concessions from labor while restoring cuts to services. The concessions would come from a bunch of places, including implementing a 401k-style pension plan, overtime cost reductions, and future wage increases. Because it’s a Republican proposal it’s basically DOA, of course, and both Democrats and labor leaders roundly panned it. But something Republican Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said sticks with me: given the wait lists for the disabled and social service cuts, how can union leaders feel good about not finding the sort of savings the GOP is asking for?
Union leaders, of course, would rather someone else pay to close the budget gap — preferably the state’s wealthiest residents. Legislative Democrats happily agreed, and the Appropriations and Finance Committees rolled out their own spending and revenue plans this past week. The spending plan tacks $300 million on to Malloy’s budget to restore some of his social services spending cuts and “reinterprets” the spending cap to exclude retirement benefits. The revenue plan would pay for all this by