CT News Junkie | OP-ED | Nobody Scores! The Winners and Losers of Session 2015

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OP-ED | Nobody Scores! The Winners and Losers of Session 2015

by | Jun 5, 2015 7:45am
() Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Analysis, Business, Campaign Finance, Gaming, Town News, Labor, Media Matters, Opinion, State Budget, Taxes, State Capitol, Transparency, Tribes

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The gavel came down at last, and the 2015 regular session of the General Assembly is in the history books. So as legislators and reporters collapse in exhaustion after yet another marathon run, who came out on top? Who saw their hopes crushed? Let’s find out.

Winners:

Republicans — I am cautiously impressed with the usually hapless opposition party’s performance this session. Themis Klarides has done a good job of leading her enlarged caucus in the House, and the alternative budget Republicans offered was better than the bare frameworks or awkward silences they’d offered in the past. We desperately need a real opposition party around here and the GOP is finally stepping up.

Charter schools — Despite angry opposition from teachers unions and others, funding for charters survived. They will be subject to new rules and increased transparency, but language imposing a moratorium on new ones sadly didn’t survive.

Long Island Sound — The “blue plan” for conserving the sound was passed on Earth Day. Let’s hope it makes a difference.

Transportation — I hope that transportation really will be a winner — there’s certainly enough money set aside for it. However, that money isn’t guaranteed or protected, and that’s a worry.

Car dealerships — Tesla won’t be coming to the state after all.

Public health — Some rules for vaccinating children were tightened. There should be zero exceptions, but tighter rules are a good start.

Transgender people — It’ll be easier to change sex listed on birth certificates now.

State employees — No labor concessions were demanded and the state workforce wasn’t reduced. Lucky, lucky.

Titanium — It’s now the state element! Good?

Casinos — Get ready for gambling north of Hartford. A process for establishing a casino somewhere along the I-91 corridor is now in place — now it’s up to potential host communities to figure out if they want a casino in their town. It’ll probably end up in East Windsor.

News media & transparency advocates — The Freedom of Information Act has been strengthened thanks to the passage of H.B. 6750. Police will need to make more arrest information available to the public, including the news media whose job it is to inquire about — and where appropriate, publicize — arrests and prosecutions. The bill will provide public access to official documents like arrest warrants as well as depictions of an arrest that may come from body cameras or dashboard cameras.

Lobbyists — They never lack for work, do they?

Losers:

This year there are too many to list in this column, but here are some:

Democrats — Who dithered away a chance to pass a lot of useful bills, had to be reminded by a last-minute filibuster by their own members that they shouldn’t let Second Chance and Excessive Force bills die, and still almost lost the budget vote? The same party that actually passed a bloated, tone-deaf mess of a budget over the objections of just about everyone, as it happens. Nice work, Democrats. The way our state works, though, they’ll likely never feel the consequences at the ballot box. A pity.

Republicans — Wait, weren’t they in the winners category, too? Well, yeah, but take a look at the breakdown of votes on the budget in the House. Five Republicans were absent, and the budget passed by three. I know members had good excuses but, man, it’s important to show up. Republicans had a huge chance here and they blew it.

Business — Big companies like GE and Aetna took the rare step of speaking against the budget’s tax increases. Didn’t help. Now they have to determine whether to follow up on threats of moving out of a state that often seems actively hostile to them, or hope that they can get some changes pushed through in the special session to be held later this month.

Hospitals — The Democrats appear to have taken every opportunity they could think of to soak the state’s hospitals this year.

Taxpayers — Hope you like taxes. You do, right? Good. Changes to the minimum budget requirement for local school boards are good, but overall taxpayers took a beating.

Gov. Malloy — The governor seemed out of touch, and if he ends up signing the budget he’ll have broken campaign promises not to raise taxes. Worse, the budget fixes everyone had to sacrifice for in 2011 have failed. Feels like a low point.

Vapers — E-cigarettes will now face the same restrictions as regular cigarettes. Good.

Towns and cities — The cap on car taxes passed in the budget has a lot of municipalities worried, and with good reason.

Deer — You can kill them with a bow and arrow now!

Campaign finance reformers — Republican reforms to campaign finance rules passed with bipartisan support in the House, but died in the Senate. The rules would have made it more difficult for state parties to raise and spend money. Infuriating.

Fans of punctuality — Once again, like hung over college students who stumble out of bed at noon before realizing they have a paper due in an hour, everything was done sloppily, in a rush, and at the last minute. But what else is new?

Connecticut — The losses feel heavier than the wins this year, and people are more frustrated than ever. Oh, and in 2018, this happens all over again. Just remember that town elections aren’t too far away.

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.

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Comments

(25) Archived Comments

posted by: Stephen Mendelsohn | June 5, 2015  9:10am

Did someone forget to mention the disability-rights community’s victory over assisted suicide for the third year in a row?  The assisted suicide bill was pulled several days before the Judiciary Committee’s joint favorable deadline because it would have been resoundingly defeated had it come up for a vote.  Compassion & Choices clearly belongs in the losers column.  Let us keep them there.

posted by: WonkyJ | June 5, 2015  9:15am

Please do not encourage GE to escalate its scare tactics & bullying.  “Combined Reporting” is used in our neighboring New England states, and their skies have not fallen. Not even sagging, actually; in fact they have managed good business & economic growth.

It is worth noting that GE’s own PR statement notably refused to disclose the actual dollar figures it has paid in CT corporate income taxes for the past several years. Wonder why? Maybe this is a chance to get some real disclosure!

If GE wants to play nasty, the human taxpayers should push back.  Boycott GE anyone?

posted by: enness | June 5, 2015  10:58am

100% agree with Stephen, well said.

posted by: Biff Winnetka | June 5, 2015  11:06am

@ WonkyJ

“If GE wants to play nasty, the human taxpayers should push back.  Boycott GE anyone?”

What a joke of a comment and a great illustration of how most people are CLUELESS about business.

Boycott GE?  Really?  Exactly how?  You and your neighbors not gonna buy yourself a locomotive or a jet engine this year?

Sure, go buy yourself an LG appliance instead of a GE appliance.  You’ll feel great…and it will show up as the 97th decimal place on GE’s quarterly earnings statement.

What WonkyJ and others don’t comprehend is that GE has ALL the leverage in this little power play.

Connecticut needs GE WAY more then GE needs CT.

GE should boycott Connecticut!

posted by: Not that Michael Brown | June 5, 2015  12:09pm

GE has not paid CT income tax in years.

posted by: SocialButterfly | June 5, 2015  1:17pm

@NothThatMichaelBrown:  Connecticut resident GE employees do pay Connecticut Income Tax.

posted by: Just another CT resident | June 5, 2015  3:51pm

The residents of Ct are the losers as our State “leaders” continue to take this state down fiscally unsustainable path.  Our leaders closed multi-billion dollar budget deficits for the last 4 years by raising taxes and will raise taxes again to close multi-billion dollar deficits in the next budget cycle (2018- 2019). Sorry to say get ready for another round of tax increases in 2018 unless there are changes in Hartford.

posted by: justsayin | June 5, 2015  5:19pm

Car dealerships did not win, they failed to recognize opportunity and change. Another hallmark of the useless unions.

posted by: CitizenCT | June 5, 2015  7:29pm

Winner: Those looking to reduce income inequality in CT.  After GE, Aetna and others move their top one percent employees to another state, the income gap will shrink.

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | June 6, 2015  10:33am

we are all losers!
think about it, we have:
1) a governor that lies - the most despicable of traits.
2) a senate president who has completely lost touch with the modern economy and who’s better days are clearly far behind him.
3) a house speaker that is weak, ineffective, and lacks any vision.
4) a house minority leader that is simply lost .......... wow, lost ..........
5) a senate minority leader that is really our only hope, but is ignored by everyone.

we are so screwed.

HST

posted by: CT-GALReform | June 6, 2015  7:33pm

The article does not mention the biggest losers of all - children and families stuck in the disaster that is our state’s horribly broken and corrupt “family” court system.  This as the attorney packed Judiciary Committee allowed *45* bills, including HB 5505, the most important piece of family court reform legislation proposed this session - die over what amounted to a poorly worded, but accurate email.  Shame on the legislators and Republican leadership who allowed this happen.  This is an embarrassment to the state and the Judiciary Committee.  The people’s work was NOT DONE this session.

posted by: SocialButterfly | June 6, 2015  7:45pm

@DrHunterSThompson: Please be consistent. Why did you include an innocent Republican House Minority leader in with a bunch of elected Democratic losers who budget-buried our state?

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | June 6, 2015  8:47pm

SocialB - many reasons, not the least of which was she didn’t have all her members there, if they were they could have voted the budget down, and she allowed the debate to stop. Cafero was a gigantic blowhard, but he would have debated until time ran out.

HST

posted by: dano860 | June 6, 2015  10:22pm

It has been legal to hunt deer with bow and arrow for many years. The change made it legal to do so on private property seven days a week during the designated season.
It is claimed that G.E. has 5700 employees that contribute, for waste, to Connecticut approximately $14 Billion annually. They also utilize the services of about 65K suppliers in Connecticut.
Aetna contributed $65m in taxes and will be getting an increase of 27% by virtue of the new budget. How many suppliers do they use?
The secondary effect of a G.E. or Aetna leaving the State will be crippling.
Just wait and watch the effect of the 1400 person layoff at Sikorsky. It will be minor in comparison but it will provide a sneak preview of an Aetna or G.E. leaving.
UTC will maintain their home office in the State as they promised (10 years) in order to get the tax credits but P&W is slowly leaving. Florida and Georgia are the winners here.
No matter how you spin it, Connecticut is one big loser!

posted by: SocialButterfly | June 7, 2015  10:46am

@DrHunterSThompson: Aa a loyal Democrat only you would have the audacity to blame Republican Minority Leader Themis Klarides, and the the powerless GOP legislators’ for the Democratic Party elected leadership in the demise of our final state budget caper that everyone knows the mafia-like controlled Malloy Democrats were completely responsible for. Above all I deplore your completely non-professional description of former GOP Minority Leader Larry Cafero “as a Giant Blowhard.” You should apologize to the editorial staff of Ct Junkie, it’sreadership and above all Larry Cafero for your lack of class in your failed attempt to demean the objects of your inbred political hostility.

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | June 7, 2015  2:22pm

not “giant” but “gigantic”

posted by: oldtimer | June 7, 2015  8:04pm

We the people are the losers!!! The biggest misconception is that corporations pay taxes. Corporate taxes are simply passed along to the consumer. The biggest lie is that the middle class will see tax cuts. Any time taxes are raised, everyone gets hurt. As for “the rich paying their fair share”, can someone please define “rich” and “fair share”. The only way Connecticut can be saved is through bankruptcy… when the entitlement dollars dry up, those people will move to greener pastures and when the paychecks bounce, the state employees will be forced back to the bargaining table. Then the Democrats will lose their voter base and maybe some responsible people will be elected.

posted by: Biff Winnetka | June 8, 2015  7:55am

@Oldtimer is correct.  Chapter 9 will be the final solution and Illinois will set the precedent, quickly followed by RI and CT.

posted by: dano860 | June 8, 2015  9:13am

Oldtimer, you may be correct in that we truly need to hit bottom before we can begin to recover. The problem, as I see it, is that nobody has ever been able to bring the dead back to life.
The agencies, hospitals, self help groups, community organizer functions and many other State subsidy dependent people need to find alternative funding or drop by the wayside. The levels of spending at the State are not sustainable. Budgets of the future are going to be austere by comparison when the reality of reduced revenues (taxes) are finally seen.
When you have a Mr. Carstensen the preeminent economist of UCONN saying that the thought process behind this budget was flawed you have to wonder how bad off we really are. He generally attempts to make anything Democrat devised smell and taste better than it does.

posted by: M_Dietrich | June 8, 2015  9:07pm

M_Dietrich

Ugh, I wouldn’t call the Republicans’ performance or proposed budget impressive. No real ideas, just press conferences and shenanigans. But, you’re right: nobody scores! This budget is a mess and the process was even messier.

posted by: oldtimer | June 9, 2015  5:46am

Republicans were completely shut out of the budget process as they have been for some 25 years. Meanwhile the democratic controlled legislature has dug a budget hole where only 20 percent spending is discretionary! With fixed costs at 80 percent and the democrats unwillingness to do anything about entitlements and state employee contracts then our only salvation is bankruptcy. And don’t look for the lunacy to end anytime soon.

posted by: oldtimer | June 9, 2015  5:48am

Oh, and here’s a novel thought… The spending cap should be set that the new budget can never exceed the revenues of the last budget

posted by: M_Dietrich | June 9, 2015  11:02am

M_Dietrich

Republicans had a driver’s seat in the budget process for 16 years when Rowland and Rell governed. At best, Republican legislators were “shut out.” At worst, those Republican legislators offered no real, legitimate budget proposals.

posted by: oldtimer | June 9, 2015  5:02pm

MDeitrich, you are entitled to your opinion but you can’t make up facts. Rowland ran on the promise of repealing the income tax but the democratic controlled legislature prevented him from doing so. The dems ran roughshod over Rell as they had their way with her. Now Malloy and the dems have imposed the two biggest tax increases and did so in a four year span. Like Detroit, Baltimore, DC and everything run by democrats, Connecticut is being destroyed by socialist policies.

posted by: M_Dietrich | June 10, 2015  9:08am

M_Dietrich

Oldtimer, I was mainly responding to your statement that the R’s have been “completely” shut out for the past 25 years. That is certainly not true. A governor has a significant amount of power. As for Rowland and Rell specifically, well, I think Rowland cared more about his own interests than that of our state’s fiscal condition and you can’t blame Dems for the lack of leadership under Rell. I don’t think it’s fair to say that Democrats alone have caused all of our fiscal problems when Republicans have had opportunities to do something along the way.