OP-ED | Time Management Skills for Lazy Legislators
There’s no budget in place for anything after July 1, and it’s the fault of Democratic leaders and members who can’t ever seem to get their acts together. The only explanation I can come up with is that they are in over their heads and have no idea how to do their jobs from here.
Clearly, they need a little help.
Here’s the story so far. The budget was supposed to be done before the end of the regular session a few weeks back, but despite plenty of prodding from the governor and taunts from opposition Republicans, Democrats and their leaders in the House were unable to agree on a budget deal in time. It happens; deadlines get blown. They had a few weeks’ grace period to finally work things out, but astonishingly they decided instead to dither, golf, and go on vacation.
As Thursday’s scheduled special session approached with no new budget to vote on, House Democrats had two options: they could either agree to a “mini-budget” proposed by the Malloy administration, or they could let the governor set very, very limited spending by executive order until they got their act together.
They decided to take the easy way out and let the governor do it.
The governor and Senate Democrats begged the House to pass the mini-budget, because the alternative would be steep spending cuts and a barely-functional government.
For example, a well-regarded and successful youth employment program wouldn’t be able to operate. The Connecticut Library Consortium’s funding would be zeroed out. “Draconian” spending cuts would go into effect for every agency.
Come July 1, everything’s going to fall apart without the mini-budget. That was the very clear warning.
They ignored it.
Speaker Joe Aresimowicz’s lousy excuse was that his caucus wanted a full budget, and they didn’t want him to drag them all in on a sunny summer Thursday just to pass some two-bit temporary one. After all, they had vacations to be on.
“I believe my members are less than likely to hop on planes and leave their families at vacation places all over this country and other countries to come in and do a temporary fix,” Aresimowicz told reporters.
Sure, why would they do their jobs? Their funding’s not about to be cut. Why did we bother electing these people again?
So there was no special session, and no vote. Instead, two days before the new fiscal year began and almost a month after the regular session ended, House Democrats unilaterally proposed a ridiculous “draft” budget that would raise sales taxes to close the deficit. They might be able to vote on it by mid-July.
Senate Democrats and the governor were agog. Even Senate Republican leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said his caucus would have voted for the mini-budget, despite disagreeing with it, to avoid inflicting “unnecessary harm” on people.
What is Aresimowicz thinking? This is stunningly bad judgment on his part. Add this to the strange way in which bills were debated and then tabled this session, plus the failure to pass a few significant pieces of legislation, and Speaker Aresimowicz gets an F for the semester.
Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for you: Are you all right? Do you need help with your job? Is there anything we can do to make it easier? Maybe you and your caucus could use a little training.
Look, I get that things get away from you. I used to teach high school, I saw this all the time. So let’s talk about time management. This is an important skill! You’ll find it invaluable when you get out into the real world, believe me.
Next time you try this, if you get another chance, I suggest breaking a big task like the state budget up into manageable steps. Create goals that you can achieve each week, for instance. Make a chart outlining what you need to do by the end of the session. Every time you finish a task you can do something you like, such as golfing or ignoring what’s in front of your face.
We can talk time management software, too! If a member of your caucus spends all his time on the internet watching “Veep” instead of working, there’s a little program you can put on his computer that won’t let him do that unless he finishes his work first. Handy!
There’s always extra help available. Tutors can work with you on the budget during lunch or after work or whenever. Just let us know, okay?
And if you find this insulting, Mr. Speaker, imagine how we feel.
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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