Malloy, my crabby column and Jessica

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Whenever I write a crabby column — like this one — knocking a Democratic politician (and I do that more often than I get credit for), I’m always flustered by the way a group of chronic soreheads closes ranks around me and claims me — temporarily — as one of their own. The problem is exacerbated today because the headline is maybe just a demi-scintilla crankier than I actually meant the column to be. And then the influential Dudchik site boiled that down to “McEnroe bails on Malloy.”

No he doesn’t.

I want to be able to criticize Malloy when it seems meet and right. I’m not his water-carrier, bag-man, corner boy, etc. But in the last analysis, I’m supportive of what he’s trying to do. I had an opportunity to explain that this morning when I got an email from somebody named Jessica W. (I’m not going to bother to fix her typos, because I’m too lazy):


Greetings Colin,

I read your article on Dan Malloy’s budget.  I think it’s great someone is asking these questions and writing some articles.  However this situation is extremely serious and more needs to be done immediately.  We must demand dan Malloy gives us a complete copy of our budget before anything goes further.  We might need to organize a group of people to demand the budget.  Would you be interested in doing that?  I would like to organize a group and then we could merge them.  the more people the better.  Also are you aware of the Connecticut Constitution?  Sacred Heart university recently began printing it in book form and it’s very nice to have a hard copy.  I seriously think we should look into impeaching Dan Malloy because he’s lying all over the place and money is disappearing from the budget.  No one in the state of Ct approves of him taking out more loans.  And as far as this recent snow storm goes, I honestly see considerably less state
and town plows on the road – why?? this is rediculous, sure we have a little more snow then usuaul but the amount of snow doesnt corilate with just how poor of a job was done to clear our roads.  this was a serious safty concern.  Im seeing things ive never seen happen in this state before.

OK, that’s Jessica’s email.  Here’s my answer:

Look, I’m not crazy about the way this budget was presented, but I can’t go any of those other places.
To your first point, budget-making is a fairly transparent (if unnecessarily complicated) process. As it moves along, you will be able to see, if you choose, every last little detail…until the very last minute. In fact, the true budget subterfuge is committed — every time — by the legislature, in the form of implementers. That will come in May. [Author’s note:  Re-reading Jessica’s email, it seems to me she may not understand that Malloy’s budget proposal is not a budget but essentially the first move in a long chess match.]
Money is not disappearing from the budget. It’s moving around a lot. It always does. That’s the unnecessarily confusing part. The first budget I covered was in 1979. It was an Ella Grasso budget. It was often pretty hard to figure out, back then, what was going on. The process is always a bit of a scramble. Malloy’s budgets are not more confusing or deceptive than those of Grasso, O’Neill, Weicker, Rowland or Rell. The  problem is, they’re not that much less confusing and deceptive either.  [Author’s note: It’s kind of a disservice to lump them all together like that.  My point is:  It has never been a number on the right column and a number on the left.  It’s always a mishmash that’s pretty hard for the average person to follow.]
In defense of Malloy, he  inherited a mess. When he took over, the gap between the money coming in and the money being spent was $3.7 billion. That was the handiwork of other people, not Malloy. He had to try to fix that. I have not loved every thing he’s tried, but most of his proposals represent good faith efforts to solve problems he did not invent.
Lastly, you can count on me to crusade against any attempt to impeach him, not that there is even a shred of a cause to do this.
Malloy has ushered in a new era of openness and has made some pretty serious stabs at good government after 16 years of very bad and often deeply corrupt government. During the Rowland years, virtually every level and every department of state government was compromised in some way, and the first, second and third response to any questions from the outside was stonewalling. Rell’s intentions were better, but she was unsuccessful in reversing the institutional attitudes created by Rowland and his henchmen. She also found high ethical standards to be inconvenient. (You may recall she appointed her own in-house director of ethics and then sent her to Siberia when it became a nuisance to have someone sitting there making people follow the rules.)
Here’s how I see Malloy:  he’s far more honest than Rowland and far more hard-working than Rell. His basic goal is a functioning state government, and he’s willing to do some pretty hard (and unpopular) things to get there. But he’s not perfect. And he’s also a politician. And no politician — except President Bartlett on “The West Wing” — can really bring him or herself to tell all the constituencies the bitterest of the bitter truths.
So even the best of them will always disappoint a little.




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27 thoughts on “Malloy, my crabby column and Jessica

  1. Bethy

    I really enjoyed this article and your response is very well stated. I personally find that Malloy is the most openly and honest Governor since 1978…I believe he is doing a great job. His leadership style is very different from those in the past which makes him very unique. To form a group in an effort to “impeach” him is clearly “laughable”….I pray that he runs for re-election because he certainly proved to deserve another term. I really enjoy him and his administration..There will be good times and uncomfortable times..For the most part, they strive for a better Connecticut. I give him and his staff a thumbs up for their hard efforts….God Bless.

    1. Palin Smith

      Malloy imposed a good thing on Connecticut adding a billion and a half in new taxes. In fact, it worked so well I would welcome about 5 billion in new taxes over the next two years. That would really bring in the money to create more busways. God Bless our low-taxed state!

  2. Allen Marko

    While CT’s mayors are screaming over the proposal to eliminate most of the local motor vehicle property tax, I support it as long as its part of a move to wean us off reliance on the property tax in general to fund education. It does seem that this particular proposal was unveiled in a bit of a sneaky, shell-game manner (Hey guys , here’s a whole bunch of extra education money and by the way, you can’t tax cars any more).

    As to the rest of the budget proposal, it does rely heavily on borrowing but that’s about the only funding source we have left. Don’t hold your breathe hoping for more federal dollars given the Republican drive to cut us into a double-dip recession.

    1. AM

      Deleting the tax on cars will result in an increase in the property tax on HOMES. The $$$ required to operated cities and towns have to come from somewhere.

  3. peter brush

    A retired insurance exec friend of mine would, I think, characterize himself as a moderate life-long Dem. We maintain friendly relations, at this point, despite the fact that anyone who could vote for Obama twice is ipso facto immoderate, and of course as one who believes in Constitutionally limited government, rule of law, I’m an extremist in his eyes. Prudent concern for friendship says only limited conversation about politics allowed.
    But, I cracked a joke the other morning about the Malloy car tax proposal, and my friend immediately asserted that the Malloy speech of the previous day had been the most insulting he’d experienced.

    The big issue for me isn’t that the budget is obscure, complex, or confusing. I’m not going to read it, and am satisfied to read reports suggesting that it is those things. ( (
    The problem is the fundamental dishonesty, a dishonesty Malloy shares with his voters and with perennially Dem leislature, a dishonesty involved in denying that a.)the State is in perilous fiscal condition, “broke” if you like, and b.)we therefor have to cut State spending. And, God Bless my friend, and here’s hoping that there more Malloy voters like him, for waking up to recognize that no matter the good intentions Malloy’s proposed 10% increase in spending over two years is both insulting and irresponsible.

  4. Richard

    Malloy’s patronage jobs are not dissimilar to what’s gone on before. Dan knows enough to stack the decks with allies. Donovan’s recent scandal is warning enough that grift and graft are still in play. Public thievery takes on subtler forms of treachery this decade.

    Rowland was caught in a somewhat old fashioned sting and a dumb rather pointless one at that. Today the graft is through $125,000 or better patronage jobs, accelerated 10-yea pension vesting, political appointments, contracts, consulting hires, non-profit advisors, job offers to family members at friendly non-profit orgs, and steering contracts to choice service providers via the RFP process (juking and curve fitting the requirements). Most of this isn’t new: its just the finesse and largesse in which these percs are now awarded and accepted by the public at large as SOP.

    My only real problem with Malloy’s budget is it still lacks the kind of job creation mechanisms CT needs. A public, private, and federal plan for full employment is needed. More for the homeless (some is in there). A 10% increase and I still don’t see the overall value.

    I haven’t bought for a second that education is CT’s problem: the problem is jobs and the regulations and litigation and taxes that simply scare business away. CT continues to come in among the bottom 10 in the CEO glossy mags for New Site Locations. CT is too easy to dismiss as part of the due diligence of choosing a location. Choosing a location ranked in the bottom 20% is a CEOs nightmare in front of the Board of Directors. The path of least resistance and corporate political risk mitigation says “go with the top 20% and CYA”.

  5. Scott

    Eliminating the car tax (which will increase real estate taxes) is at least a progressive tax move (taxing wealthier people more). But the first two moves Maloy made (raising sales tax and whittling the property tax exemption) were regressive moves which makes me wish I hadn’t voted for the traitor to the democratic party.

  6. peter brush

    the traitor to the democratic party
    Progressive, regressive, potato, tomato, let’s call the whole thing off. How about if our solons were to cut spending, cut taxes for everyone?
    As AM (above) correctly notes,unless you figure your municipality is going to cut spending (I live in Hartford, so I’m not figuring that way in the least; gotta pay for excellent snowplowing operation…), the town budgets are going to get revenue somewhere. I’d be curious about any social scientific/economic studies showing that landlords don’t pass their higher property taxes on to their tenants. If none can be found I’d suggest that there are a lot of class warriors like Scott who are happy to suffer abuse at the hands of our governments as long as the rich suffer more.
    But, wait; can’t the rich move to other, less abusive, jurisdictions?

  7. Todd Zaino

    CT’s economy in a downward slide
    Media continues to lie and misguide
    All that’s good the Left will slay
    As we continue into our decay
    Can’t believe Colin has left the Dark side

  8. Tom

    Colin, Mr. Malloy promised a no nonsense, transparent government and a honest budget. Then he presents an ” honest ” budget based in part upon $ 180 million in savings from ” union suggestion boxes “. That bit of chicanery was an insult to the common sense of Connecticut taxpayers. How about a column on how these ” suggestion ” boxes worked out ?

    1. Palin Smith

      Unions don’t care much about Connecticut. They’re in it for the pensions and benefits. Watch them move to Florida and live like lings.

      1. Cynical Susan

        I’m a union retiree, and yes, I was glad to learn of the pension and benefits in the job from which I retired, after years of working for companies that offered neither (and not huge wages either). And I’m still here, paying my taxes and trying to be a good citizen.

  9. Todd Zaino

    Tom, great post…but if this state had more common sense, we wouldn’t be the bluest state in the nation. Liberals run this state, and they can look into the mirror if they want to see why this state is screwed up.

  10. Reader


    I apologize for being late to the party, and I definitely recognize your column as critical of Malloy. I am a Republican but more a fan of common sense (as such, I really like Kevin Lembo, who must frequently get a lot of stinkeye at Democratic gatherings for calling a spade a spade), and there are a couple of tidbits in your piece where such common sense is lacking.

    First, and I know this was in the middle of your Disney joke, but there’s no reason at all to assume that Dan Malloy’s budget is the opposite of what he believes in. I say it is exactly what he believes in: more and more and more spending, and raising tax rates to a point of diminishing returns. This point – “[The budget] is so completely the embodiment of everything Malloy opposes that we cannot rule out the possibility of some enchantment” – does not make any sense after having watched 2+ years of the Malloy rule.

    Second, you call car taxes hideously unfair and capricious, simply because Hartford’s car taxes are high. That’s definitely untrue. Hartford’s car taxes are high because Hartford’s leaders set high car taxes, period. “Capricious” is defined as “given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior.” That cannot describe tax rates in Hartford, because they are neither sudden (going up constantly and higher than inflation since the 1970s) and unaccountable (Democratic party has made it so). It is time to lay the blame for Hartford’s downfall on the people who deserve it — those who levy the tax rates and force Hartford’s businesses to move to the suburbs, the South or overseas. This is all Hartford’s fault; its leaders have made decisions and the consequences are clear. People with means are voting with their feet and people without means are stuck in the city, paying 80 mills on their used cars.

    Third, on “clarity,” I hope you weren’t tricked by every other sentence in a Malloy-Foley debate, i.e., “let me be clear…” Making things messy is the way the Governor gets by. Sooner or later, he is somehow going to try to blame his First Five boondoggles and the busway and Jackson Labs and an extra $2 billion for UConn on Rowland’s and Rell’s failure to pass a sensible budget. He doesn’t care about clarity, and neither do any of the Democrats’ key support groups. He is only trying to permanently change the face of Connecticut in a way that he thinks is best, but the sad fact is that his recipe is one for disaster, and history has shown that time and time again.

    The only way that the Governor can restore this State to its prominence is by taking a cleaver to the unions’ salary and benefits structures, and allowing our cities and towns to do the same. That’s it. That’s the only way to cure our generations of debt.

    Where is it written that a public employee is entitled to a pension and lifetime health care, anyway?

    1. equality 7-2521

      Unions are not the problem in fact they can be the cure. A union is a democracy, a sum of its individual members. At best a symbiotic relationship providing a fair, safe work atmosphere for fair demands from the employer. Big business has been successful in demonizing this fine all American institution and denying honest, hard working Americans the proper fruit of their labors via greedy chicanery.
      Its been my experience that nearly all workers want to put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s respect but it gets harder when they see their bosses get hired into high paying positions and than bail out after they’re assured of siphoning megamillions out of the worker’s life blood.
      A good union benefits us all by standing up for fairness in the workplace which contributes to fair profits, fair pay which allows its workers to spend and grow the economy, produce more jobs and spreads taxes over a broader group of folk thus lowering the burden upon everyone.
      There are many fine employers out there who do care about their employees and treat them fairly and do not fear a union and there are a minority of downright immoral employers who will expend vast resources to crush a union and the benefits needed by good hard working folk.
      Unions are the People seeking respect. They are not on par with greedy board’s of directors or CEOs,etc.
      Union members are fine spending their modest lives putting in an honest day’s work for an honest return, but many bosses just want to put in the minimum effort needed to cash out as soon as possible to live in the pampered, effete lap of luxury as parasites.
      Also min wage is not the problem, the problem is we have no max wage. If we can regain our sanity we would need neither.

  11. Reader

    Equality, needless to say that I disagree with too many points of your E-mail to count, and most of your points are not on point with mine (to which you replied). I did not say that any single worker in a union was a bad worker or a bad person. That would be incorrect.

    What I am saying is that public employees wages and benefits are a significant drag on our budgets. There is no constitutional right, none, of any public employee to a pension or benefits. These are costing us money.

    As for your comments that we should have a “maximum wage,” that’s completely un-American. Every single one of us, you and me, should be able to pursue whatever goals we set and the government should not try to get in the way. Moreover, where would our tax revenue come from if you were to build such a “maximum wage” ceiling? The top 1% of taxpayers makes about $400,000 or more, and contributes 35-40% of our federal income tax revenue.

    If you set the ceiling at the top 1%, then we’d lose more than a third of our tax revenue. Does that sound like a good thing or a bad thing?

    1. equality 7-2521

      This is such a subtle subset in a highly complex topic but all workers do have the right to unionize. Even public workers, who also happen to be tax payers, are subject to the abuses of their direct employers who may be inept elected officials but all the more reason to organize. Any other interpretation would suggest legalized slavery which is not a God given right. Most unions will work with employers’ resources and constraints to insure a symbiotic relationship. The problem comes when one tries to take unfair advantage of the other & it is so easy for inept public officials to create scape goats out of their employees.
      I don’t like paying taxes but we need certain services which can only be provided by humans with human needs.
      In the private sector I purchase a candy bar produced by folk who earn a wage which increases the chances they will be producing more treats to satisfy my sweet tooth in the future and I have no quarrel if a percentage of the price of the candy is reserved for sick time, vacation time, pensions, etc. Treating those with respect who do services for us is just plain decent.
      Bargaining units have become the fall guy to throw a smoke screen between consumers and inept or greedy bosses.
      My point is that public service unions are not the ultimate problem which is the attitude that some folk will hook up their hard working employees to a life support system which barely keeps the worker alive giving Mr. Big obscene & unnecessary profits. I have no quarrel with those who appreciate those who provide the sweat equity and are fair to their consumers.
      We have to look at the big picture of corporate America & how its skewed our values. Even you do not understand my tongue in cheek, max income remark because your assumptions based upon maintaining this status quo.
      Something has to change but it shouldn’t be those institutions which have made us great. It should be to those institutions seeking to bastardize that which is good & served us well.
      A good listen to is Eric Burdon’s “New York 1963-America 1968” I think it should be tweeked to include America-2013

      1. Richard

        Public Sector Unions are under no mandate to lower costs and perform as efficiently as possible. Having worked there I’ve seen many work hard digging holes and filling them again bootcamp style. Luddites protecting their turf and seniority

  12. Reader

    Here’s where I hope you and I agree. I don’t want to ever pay more than $X for a job that is worth $X. For instance, if a guy can produce 2 cars a week, and each of the cars sells for $100, paying him more than 52 x 2 x $100 = $10,400 each year is a recipe for disaster. Money is being lost. Right

    Where we probably disagree is that I think many people in our state and local government do not provide an equal return for the money. Those workers need to not come back to work tomorrow.

    1. equality 7-2521

      I’ve owned two businesses & also oversaw two non profits. Comparing private & public sectors are apples to oranges. And yes we need qualified personel on both sides. I’ve had to deal with that, but I will not judge apples if I own an orange grove.

      1. Cynical Susan

        I stole this from a comment from another blog:

        From The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Some Basic Facts on State and Local Government Workers

        Studies find that public workers are paid 4 to 11 percent less than private-sector workers with similar education, job tenure, and other characteristics. This wage disadvantage is greatest for higher-wage public workers. The typical middle-wage worker earns about 4 percent less in the public sector than the private sector. Low-wage state and local workers, by contrast, earn a small amount more than their private-sector counterparts…

        While the average pay for all public employees exceeds that of all private workers, this reflects the fact that public-sector jobs are much more likely to require higher education; teaching positions require a college or master’s degree, for example. State and local employees are twice as likely as private-sector workers to have a college or advanced degree.

        [T]otal compensation for public-sector workers — including the value of benefits [pensions and health insurance] — is 4 percent less than that of comparable private-sector workers.

        1. Reader

          Cynical Susan, even if those stats are correct, none of them matter. The questions are, are state and local employees being paid what they are worth, and can we afford them? I think the answers to both questions are “some yes, some no.”

  13. John R. McCommas

    Whoa, seems like a lotta of back-peddling from the column last Saturday. Maybe Mr. McEnroe was taken to the woodshed? Sure sounds like it.

    Malloy’s sorry situation and his most recent gimmicky budget is a direct result of the false assumptions he had when he crafted his first budget. Malloy, like most liberal Democrats, thinks we had a budget shortfall when he took office was because the state has a “Revenue Problem”. No spending problem, a revenue problem. ‘People have been unfairly getting away with not paying high enough rates for years in the state of Connecticut! ’

    So the Governor and the liberal Democrat legislature raised taxes by an historic proportions promising that after that everything will be A-OK. ‘ We would have finally put our fiscal house in order’ !

    Well, all too predictably, we have another billion dollar deficit so now instead of jacking up taxes we are going to borrow like crazy. Its just too close to his re-election for anything but sneeky tax increases.

    Of course the money we put on the credit card will be paid back in future tax increases but that will happen after and if Malloy is re-elected.

    Connecticut is a text book case of diminishing returns. There comes a point where raising taxes actually decreases revenues because it kills economic activity.
    And Malloy found it. The only way out of this hole is to go back to Capitalism again and to grow the economy.

    Cutting spending by reducing our workforce and the scope of government might help too.

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