Good morning, and welcome to a blank slate. As of Friday, 2016 gets underway and with it the hope that the new year will be better, fresher, more full of possibility and goodness than the old.
Last year, as has become something of a tradition, I made predictions about what I thought would happen in 2015. I’m usually terrible at that sort of thing, so let’s see how I did!
I predicted a transportation package that wouldn’t actually change much, and I was close — transportation funding mostly is happening via bonds, but big changes still seem remote. I did say the busway would be a success, to a hearty round of boos. But CTfastrak is beating ridership estimates, expanding parking, and becoming an integral part of life in central Connecticut. Critics have been noticeably quiet since its launch last March.
I was also right about more deficits, cuts to services and universities (though not about the scope), the lack of progressive legislation, and the slow-to-recover economy. I was wrong, though, about which municipal elections would be the most interesting — somehow, I never saw Bridgeport coming. Figures.
What about this coming year? In a lot of ways, 2016 feels like the last mile of a marathon, and I can’t help but feel like this is the year when something has to give. Whether we like it or hate it, change is coming. By the end of 2016 we’ll have a new president-elect, a new legislature, and a governor who likely will have spent a lot of the past year campaigning for Democrats nationwide.
And I feel like all the change and heartache and soul-searching and backlash of the last eight years will come to a head in 2016, because presidential campaigns have a way of focusing us.
That said, here are some specifics about what I think the new year will hold:
This may be the one thing that stays much as it has been for the past few years — growing, but so slowly that it’s hard to see. Slow growth is basically our new normal. It would be great to see Connecticut’s economy catch fire, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.
One thing that we can watch for early on is whether GE decides to move its headquarters out of state — they’re planning on announcing their decision in January. My gut feeling is that they’re going to stay, but if they do decide to go it’ll be agonizing.
The coming short “budget adjustment” session, due to begin in February, likely will see the passage of a better version of the transportation lockbox. Lawmakers will then spend the rest of the session worrying about state employee salaries, which are up for renegotiation. Neither the public nor the legislature has much patience for the state employee unions’ arguments. So I don’t think things will go well for them.
I also expect there to be a lot of grumbling from Democratic backbenchers over Speaker Brendan Sharkey’s possible bid for a third term as speaker. Speakers usually only serve two terms by long tradition, and I’m guessing as the session wears on that Sharkey, who hasn’t been that popular either inside or outside of the legislature, will start to feel some blowback.
Sometime in early 2016 we’re supposed to hear which lucky town gets to host a combined Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun gaming establishment. Will it be Windsor Locks? Hartford? East Hartford? My money is on either East Windsor… or nowhere. I also have doubts about the casino going up across the border in Springfield — I still think that one will never open, and 2016 will make that a lot clearer.
So . . . the big one. Right now I’ll go with the conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton is going to win the presidency, but I feel very shaky on that. The mood of this country is volatile. However, I don’t see a president in the bunch on the Republican side, and that’ll help her. She’ll win Connecticut, but not by as much as Obama did.
The congressional races are going to be a bore. Do you know who’s running on the Republican side in your district? Me neither. I don’t expect that to change. Blumenthal and the Democrats will sweep again.
As for state elections, look for Republicans to hold the line during a presidential year and start preparing to make a real run at control of the legislature in 2018. A few marginal districts may flip to the Democrats or the GOP, but it’ll be status quo heading into 2017.
Those are my predictions for 2016. What are yours?
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.