Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced on Wednesday the re-establishment of transatlantic flights from Bradley International Airport, this time a very enticing agreed to negotiations and raised the possibility of a special session.
That the minority party is actually getting what it wants is a pretty clear indication of how bad things have become. The governor’s budget office is expected to report soon that the budget is still short over $100 million despite the last month’s cuts. So now everything, including those rescissions, are back on the table.
Throughout his time in office, the governor has been in the driver’s seat when it comes to the budget. But right now it feels like that’s no longer the case. The governor’s authority has partly rested on the idea that once whatever actions he wanted to take were implemented, we could stop worrying about the budget for a little while. That’s clearly no longer true. The budget crisis is essentially permanent.
Malloy also found himself whacked by a high-profile Quinnipiac Poll that showed his approval rating down to a positively George W. Bush-like 33 percent, while 58 percent disapproved. Malloy has never had high approval ratings, he basically came into office with half the state hating him, but this is particularly bad. The only things less popular than Malloy in Connecticut right now are the legislature and leaf mold.
The reasons? Voters are worried about the economy, sure, but they’re also angry at Malloy for breaking promises on taxes, failing to fix the deficit, promoting huge spending programs while making cuts to services, and being incredibly tone-deaf toward the business community. We still don’t know whether GE will leave Fairfield or not, though we do know Malloy hasn’t really helped the situation there.
In short, the governor has had a particularly rough first year of his second term. The next year isn’t shaping up to be much better.
Sure, next year Malloy is going to be the head of the high-profile Democratic Governors’ Association during a presidential election, but that could absolutely backfire on both him and Democrats across the country. If Malloy is unpopular at home, it might be good to get away to campaign and fundraise for the DGA — or it might lead people to accuse him of taking off when the state needs him. His record here may also become a big fat target for Republicans — it might be very easy to point to Malloy and say that tax-and-spend liberal agendas only lead to fiscal ruin.
Here at home, the budget situation likely won’t be anything close to being fixed. More deeply unpopular cuts are likely headed our way, as is a brutal showdown over salaries with already grumpy state employee unions. Tax hikes on the rich seem utterly out of the question, especially in the wake of the last round of increases.
If the budget keeps going in this direction, we could be looking at the closure of DMV offices, prisons, and other facilities, just like the governor threatened in 2011.
Some of this isn’t the governor’s fault. He has not had the best of luck. He inherited a state economy that was busily being shredded to ribbons, the recovery has been anything but robust, and we’ve been beset by disaster just about every winter. Malloy can’t help the weather, or what happens on Wall Street.
But he could be more forthright with people, and be more willing to actually negotiate with the legislature instead of high-handedly issuing cuts. He could admit that the budget is in crisis, and that he and his party are at least in part responsible for that. Maybe then the public would be willing to trust him again, at least a little.
In the meantime, he’s probably going to wish he could just hop the next flight to Ireland and never come back.
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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