CT News Junkie | OP-ED | Malloy’s Journey From Porcupine To Alfred E. Neuman

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OP-ED | Malloy’s Journey From Porcupine To Alfred E. Neuman

by | Nov 21, 2014 5:30am
() Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2014, Opinion, State Budget

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It’s breathtaking the extent to which candidates for office will go to hide bad news. In Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s case, it’s not immediately clear whether, in advance of his re-election this month, he deliberately hid from view a projected budget deficit of almost $100 million, but the timing is certainly convenient.

Indeed, it’s caused incoming Republican Senate leader Len Fasano to proclaim that “the timing of these announcements raises serious questions. It doesn’t pass the smell test.” Well duh!

Not only was the deficit hidden until after Malloy was safely re-elected, but the announcement came out late on Nov. 14 in the form of a classic Friday afternoon news dump — a graveyard reserved for cringeworthy announcements public officials hope will be buried along with leaf raking and trips to the mall.

It’s worth noting that the Democratic majority in the legislature created the law requiring the release of consensus revenue estimates in 2009 during the Rell administration. But they changed the law in 2012 to make this post-election release of data possible, conveniently pushing back the date of the Oct. 15 release to Nov. 10.

Interestingly, Malloy’s own budget office is predicting the state will end the fiscal year with a $99.5 million budget gap, about $10.4 million more than the $89.1 million deficit the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis had projected earlier that day.

In response to this newly discovered crisis, state budget director Ben Barnes announced a hiring freeze, told state agency chiefs to review their budgets and to avoid any spending that isn’t “absolutely critical in nature.” And both Malloy and Barnes are sticking to their insistence that “raising taxes is not an option.”

We’ve seen these pre-election shenanigans before from Malloy. In his 2010 campaign for governor, he suggested he would not raise taxes and then raised them with a vengeance — as if he was making up for lost time, which he was.

Indeed, covering up budget messes is a time-honored tradition among governors. Look no farther than Massachusetts, when in 1988 Gov. Michael Dukakis was running for president. Dukakis hid his state’s emerging fiscal problems so that it wouldn’t harm his presidential bid. So did New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, who was too busy attacking Dukakis and angling for a job with Dukakis’ opponent to pay attention to the unfolding budget disaster in Concord.

And if you flashback even farther to 1974, Dukakis first ran for governor on a “lead-pipe guarantee” that he would not raise taxes — a promise he broke after winning the election.

But perhaps the most offensive in recent memory was the 2002 performance of New York Gov. George Pataki, who in an effort ensure his election to a third term, hid from voters the condition of his state’s finances — a tactic many observers are convinced worsened the crisis because it prevented him from taking emergency measures to deal with what turned out to be a seismic $10 billion budget gap.

His re-election safely assured, Mr. Pataki confirmed a few weeks later what his detractors had been saying all along: the state faced its worst fiscal crisis in decades and he would have to make cuts in popular programs such as aid to local school districts. This is the kind of chicanery and cynicism that, if widely reported and read by our youth, could dissuade an entire generation from entering public service.

Of course, we’re not talking New-York sized numbers here in Connecticut. After all, a $100 million hole in a $19 billion budget isn’t a chasm, but the refrain is much the same. For obvious reasons, the announcement of bad budget news was delayed until after an election — at which point administration officials acted surprised, threw up their hands and talked about having to make “tough decisions,” including the likelihood of cutting popular aid to state colleges and universities, as Malloy and Barnes said may be necessary this week.

As regular readers of this column know, I voted reluctantly for Malloy as “the porcupine we know” — though I’m now wondering whether there is a more apt animal metaphor for the governor. For all their prickliness, at least porcupines aren’t shifty. They don’t pretend to be anything they’re not.

Perhaps the governor is really a cross between an ostrich and a cat — a sort of Alfred E. Neuman with claws and whiskers. That’s not a great place to be. Then again, that description would fit more than half the politicians in this country, which is actually reassuring. It makes Connecticut an average place, befitting our nickname of The Land of Steady Habits. Thank you, governor.

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

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.

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(12) Archived Comments

posted by: GBear423 | November 21, 2014  9:53am

GBear423

I got a metaphor for the Governor…

I should record and file all the examples of how the democrat legislature has taken good legislation that would reign in republican governors or their own Assembly, and changed them with BLATANT political bias for themselves.  Its not like it is not reported, its no secret. I am beside myself completely dumbfounded; this has been ongoing and voters bend over every 2 years asking please sir may we have another?!

posted by: Commuter | November 21, 2014  1:11pm

What is so confusing about this?

The date for releasing these numbers was moved to November to reduce the demagoguing of the budget - that was a blow for sound government.

The deficit is .0053% of the budget. That’s about $.05 out of $10.00.

And Malloy is doing exactly what he said he’d do if there was a shortfall - cut spending.

One last bit of perspective before I go back to ignoring this column: the governor has rescission authority of up to 5% of the budget. That’s 10 times the sized of this hole. In other words, the legislature recognized long ago that the budget could routinely be off by that much, and gave the executive the power to deal with it administratively.

Think about that a bit: Malloy can, at his discretion, cut up to .95 billion dollars - $950 million. It’s astonishing how close these guys get to the legislatively approved target, given the lack of control over revenues and significant amounts of expenditures they have to deal with.

It takes something for a guy to be so persistently befuddled in public. I don’t know what that is, but it sure is something.

People who read CTNJ (and especially write on CTNJ) should be the grownups in the room about this stuff, since the majority of the population hasn’t the time and depth of understanding to get their heads around it.

posted by: Noteworthy | November 21, 2014  4:06pm

Let’s face it folks - we voted for a poser, a boisterous, prickly expert of bovarism.  And all the Democrats in the state lined up to help manipulate us with his exaggerated claims of greatness. 

Nothing is more irksome than a lying, intentionally misleading politician. The election was presented as a grocery list of Malloy’s accomplishments with a backdrop of wealth envy, sex slaves and yachts - none of which of course, affect anybody but it helped drive votes. This may be good for the poser on Election Day Tuesday, but it’s bad for the voter on the Morning After Wednesday.

I wish a reporter would actually confront Malloy with why he felt the need to lie. Is winning so important that whatever lie you have to tell is supposed to be ok? So we’re stuck with a poser and given the number of loopholes and special treatment legislation custom designed to aid and abet him, we’ve also voted in a lot of mini-posers who will now preen and postulate in the upcoming session, about “fixing” our problems, how hard they’re working and how late.

What we really need is a Morning After pill, a Plan B solution for these pretenders, these fast and loose players of the truth in case our reality on Wednesday is different than what we are told up through Tuesday. I know, I know - when pigs fly from here to Paris, wearing a pink dress and pearls.  But we can stand in the field and hope. Is there another choice?

posted by: Commuter | November 21, 2014  5:33pm

A bit more research reveals I’ve overstated the governor’s actual rescission authority. In practice, due to exemptions of certain line items, the actual recission authority according to this estimate in 2010 was reduced by about 40.6%. So call 59% of 5% of $19 billion, or $560 million.

posted by: shinningstars122 | November 22, 2014  12:04pm

shinningstars122

Mr. Cowgill you are long on hyperbole but short on solutions.

With the Governor’s recently annouced cuts to children and family services I think Malloy is more intent on giving coal away this holiday season than laughs.

Did you got to deadline before the poistive job gains for October were announced?

Or that gas is finally under $3 bucks in our state?

Not that Malloy can take credit for that but it will help immensely this winter.

Or how about considering the $7-$10 million in discretionary spending Washington is spending each day in dealing with ISL instead?

The effects of inaction from the Congress and the President have pretty much put the states and local communities into very tough situations.

Once again we create the myth of lack in our country as vast resources are wasted abroad.

As long as that continues Malloy will become a lot tougher than Alfred B. Neuman,as he will have no choice.

How about you consider writing something positive about our state and visit the Fuel Cell factory in Torrington instead?

Leave the satire to the professionals please.

posted by: justsayin | November 22, 2014  4:57pm

At shinning star, put the pom-poms down. Tell me again how Fuel Cell is a Malloy accomishment, I missed that one.

posted by: dano860 | November 22, 2014  6:43pm

SS122, FYI, gas in the eastern part of CT. is averaging $3.25/ gallon. This is the poorest side of the State too. There is no big recovery out here.
Fuel cells, I worked on them in the 80’s @ S.W.E.F. They still are a long way from being affordable and viable. But I would love to visit the plant, where is it, what’s it called?

posted by: perturbed | November 24, 2014  6:06am

perturbed

First, let me say I really appreciate Mr. Cowgill’s Op-Ed pieces. They are honest personal evaluations that advance the discussion of current topics (without contrived arguments or the grotesque manipulation of data that at least one other Op-Ed writer published on these pages resorts to).

With that said, I am amazed that Mr. Cowgill seems so surprised, even exasperated, by Malloy’s recent tactics. This is simply standard operating procedure that we should all expect. Sure, we should demand better—I don’t mean we should accept such dishonesty. But how is it possible that we all don’t expect it by now?

We need look no further than an Oxford Dictionary definition of “politician” for clues as to the reliability of the information coming directly from our elected leaders: 1.1 chiefly US A person who acts in a manipulative and devious way, typically to gain advancement within an organization.

We see it play out election after election, without fail. Every successful candidate makes claims and promises during the election that prove to be blatantly false. We’ve all witnessed it, and most of us have endured the dishonesty on issues that matter to us a great deal personally. We’ve all been betrayed by politicians.

Yet during every new election, we waste endless time carefully evaluating the trustworthiness of the candidates’ claims. They say “hope springs eternal..” I guess so! (They also say “there’s a sucker born every minute.”) Considering the sources—and their motivations—we should all start from the premise that the claims are obviously false, unless presented with irrefutable data to the contrary.

In this particular case, the issue of the reliability of Malloy’s assertions about the state budget was even more clear-cut than most. We’ve had four long years of endless misrepresentations about the state’s financial status. This website alone must have published literally dozens of stories about Malloy’s claims that have proven to be false every single time, as the state fiscal years have drawn to their close.

So why would anyone expect any different during the throes of a tight election?

—perturbed

posted by: shinningstars122 | November 24, 2014  6:11am

shinningstars122

@justsayin I was making a suggestion to Mr. Cowgill since he lives in the same part of the state as I do.

Better yet Mr. Cowgill could share with his readers the $44 millions dollars investments, and 200 new jobs, that Becton Dickinson will be making in their Canaan plant?

@Dano860 here is the link to Fuel Cell Energy.

I heard they will be hiring as well.

posted by: Not that Michael Brown | November 24, 2014  8:30am

Wow. You mean to say that we could have that dilettante Foley as Governor if only the public knew that CT had a 0.5% budget deficit.

posted by: dano860 | November 24, 2014  2:47pm

SS122, thanks. I don’t know the manufacturer but there are 4 units behind the Cabela store in East Hartford. They are an intriguing source of power. Personally I am thinking about the solar deals they are offering.
Job? I’m in the further most eastern part of the State. I retired 12years ago partially because of the 55 mile commute (each way). So now I work for $0.00 but still pay my fair share of taxes.
As far as cutting anything they must first understand their needs, absolute needs. They require many, many, continuous improvement events to just scratch the surface. The broad brush cutting doesn’t solve anything long term. I have seen to many places claim to be run efficiently only to have their beliefs dashed once they dig in get a better understanding of their function. Just knowing that computers alone have changed everyone’s job is enough to warrant an in depth process mapping of the agencies of the State. Just think, who does the filing for the most part now? Who does the research into areas of question? We used to have part time help or apprentices do it but today you do it, right there on the computer. There are far to many ‘we don’t do it that way’ people out there. Far to much redundancy to allow it to be ignored.

posted by: SocialButterfly | November 27, 2014  7:04pm

@shinningstars122: Your Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy state prosperity theme is only believable to a captive Dem party booster like you and “you wrote it.”