House Speaker Brendan Sharkey recently toured Bristol Hospital alongside the facility’s CEO and proclaimed that he now has a deeper appreciation of all the good work being done by the community-based facility and the challenges that it faces.
This, after Democrats castigated state hospital executives for months as greedy, overpaid functionaries more concerned with their own bottom lines than delivering quality healthcare at more reasonable prices. Cut CEO pay, that will fix the massive state budget deficit, they said.
In the same breath, the speaker tried to convince the press that Republicans were responsible for massive funding cuts to hospitals last year that resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of layoffs. It was a distortion of reality: Democrats approved the budget cuts, people were laid off as promised. Republicans actually voted to restore all the lost funding repeatedly in 2015.
The very next day the Senate Democratic President Martin Looney tried to convince reporters and the public that Democratic tax increases and their punitive public policies toward business had nothing whatsoever to do with the decision by General Electric to move its corporate headquarters from Fairfield to Boston.
The despairing lack of leadership in the Democratic-controlled Capitol, combined with the reckless, liberal distortion of reality, and the contempt for private sector business, are to blame for the loss of jobs in the state and the loss of the iconic corporate entity that is GE.
For months hospitals warned of the dire consequences of the massive cuts – $192 million in the initial budget the Democrats pushed through in the spring without a single Republican vote. The Democrats promised Connecticut that their way was the right path, a promise that immediately proved fleeting.
When the layoffs started rolling through virtually every state hospital like a virus, the Democrats railed that the hospital executives were over paid and responsible for the pain inflicted on their former employees as they headed out the door for unemployment.
In a parallel course GE and the state’s other largest employers warned for months that if the Democrats’ planned tax hikes went through it would cause them to reconsider their futures here. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, abetted by his fellow Democrats, scoffed at the notion that these corporations would ever leave, and that they should pay more to finance Connecticut’s social welfare system and services.
As public opposition grew to the hospital cuts and corporate taxes, spawned by Republicans, the majority Democrats decided they had to roll back some of the damage, hoping it would put salve on the wounds.
Too late to save the hospital workers lost in the initial layoffs, too late to convince GE they would be wise to stay put. Up until the end of the GE saga the Democrats blamed Republicans for rooting for failure and overstating the threat to the state if this employer of 5,700 in Connecticut moved its headquarters elsewhere.
What lies ahead? Perhaps under this new found appreciation for state hospitals these institutions will fare better than they have in the last few years under Democratic control of both chambers in the legislature and the governor’s office. But remember, the state faces more massive projected deficits in the next fiscal year and beyond.
GE’s corporate personnel are headed for Boston this summer. Just how much of the company’s combined $100 million payroll will leave with them remains unclear. The major question I pose as we move toward another legislative session next month is, what is the lesson learned?
The events of this last week are not restricted to hospitals or giant corporations but have implications for all businesses big and small. It is not just about GE, Fairfield’s largest employer, but the 65,000 smaller contractors and suppliers that do business with the parent. It is not just about our hospitals, typically any community’s largest employer, but the thousands of other related services and business that depend on them to survive.
Themis Klarides is the House Minority Leader and a Republican from Derby.
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