Many voters in Connecticut look at the budget stalemate in Hartford and feel as if the government no longer represents them. For most of the year the legislature was unable to act on behalf of the majority of the Connecticut voters who elected them to office. It may surprise you to learn there is good reason to feel that way.
The current majority party in the House of Representatives does not, in fact, represent the majority of the voters.
In the last election a total of 946,053 votes were cast for all of the winning House candidates. Republicans garnered 516,426 votes to 429,627 votes for the Democrats. In other words, Republican representatives received 54% of the votes and Democrats received 46% of the votes. If the seats in the House of Representatives were distributed in proportion to the POPULAR vote, Republicans would have won 82 seats in the house and the Democrats would have received 69 seats.
However, because of the way legislative districts were drawn in 2011, the Democrats got 79 seats (the majority) and the Republicans got 72 seats. The leaders of the Democratic Party could have recognized the fact that they no longer enjoy the support of the majority of the voters. They could have reached out to Republicans at the beginning of the session and offered to share the power and the responsibility for crafting a budget. In fact, they were given that opportunity on the first day of the session and instead of embracing a simple, common sense Republican request to guarantee the House would vote on state employee contracts, the Democrats, on a strict party-line vote, rejected our proposal. Afterwards one of the top leaders of the House Democrats said the vote was really all about proving who was in control of the House of Representatives.
“Frankly, the talk among House Democrats was this wasn’t about the merits of the issue. It was about whether the Republicans were in control or the Democrats were in control. And we saw in solid party line vote that the Democrats were in control,” said State Representative Robert Godfrey in a Hartford Courant article from January 6, 2017.
Instead of reaching out to Republicans, the Democrats conducted business as usual in spite of the fact that the budget deficit was enormous and only grew larger during the year.
Clearly the will of the majority of the voters of Connecticut was being subverted by the leaders of the state House of Representatives: Speaker Aresimowicz and House Majority Leader Ritter.
Even though they hold the title of Speaker and Majority Leader the “leaders” of the Democratic Party, instead of leading, refused to produce a budget so it could be reviewed by the public from the first day of the legislative session until September 14. On that day they released a 900 page budget only a few hours before legislators were called upon to vote on it. By contrast, Republicans (representing the real majority) in the House of Representatives and the Senate produced no fewer than eight fully vetted, balanced, responsible budgets which were made available to the public during the regular session and in the special session that has followed.
However, even worse than the lack of leadership and lack of bipartisanship on the parts of the Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives has been the behavior of Governor Malloy. By VETOING this budget Governor Malloy is refusing to accept the verdict of the voters as expressed by the MAJORITY of the legislature. He has said the job of the governor is to work with the legislature to pass a budget, but when presented with a bipartisan plan that rejects $1.5 billion in tax increases and his intention to shift teachers’ retirement funding onto the backs of local municipalities. He has sent the legislature back to square one and plunged the towns and cities of Connecticut into great danger.
If you add the voters represented by the five Democrats in the House of Representatives to the voters represented by the Republicans who voted for the Republican-sponsored bipartisan budget you have an overwhelming majority of the voters’ representatives voting for this proposal.
Governor Malloy should do what the Democratic leaders of the House of Representatives have refused to do and accept the fact that the voters of Connecticut want change in state government. They do not want massive tax increases and they do not want the burdens of state government shifted onto municipalities, but they do want state government to work together to solve the state’s problems.
Governor Malloy should have accepted the verdict of the voters. He should have signed the budget, and if he had problems with specific items he should work with Republicans and Democrats to try to correct those issues. He should not throw the budgetary baby out with the partisan bath water.
The Speaker and Majority Leader could still schedule a serious veto override session and work to amend the budget to address any legitimate concerns.
Connecticut needs a budget and structural spending reform now: not more partisan muscle flexing to try and show that the Democrats are in control. Their failure to deliver a budget proves that they are not.