There is some reason to be grateful on the last day of a legislative session. Mark Twain said that ‘No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session,” and the end of such tax and spend bouts provides at the least a momentary relief.
Connecticut’s session ended four days after “Tax Freedom Day,” that moment on the calendar – later than most others in the nation’s highest taxed state – when nutmeggers stop working for government and resume their lives as a free people unencumbered by taxes, once again in command of their economic liberty.
The Democratic dominated General Assembly, always on a tight leash controlled by unions, this year capitulated, shamelessly but not unexpectedly, to union interests.
At the beginning of the fiscal year, there was much huffing and puffing within Connecticut’s left of center media concerning the life and death struggle between the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) and Mr. Malloy’s budget negotiators. When this partly fictional struggle produced at last a budget resolution — from which Republican legislators had been excluded by design – it transpired that union interests had been well served. Mr. Malloy’s tax increases were massive and broad; spending cuts were minimal and questionable; municipalities that fund the bulk of educational spending were exempted from Governor Dannel Malloy’s “fair share” tax and spending impositions; and SEBAC members were assured of salary increases of three percent nine years out into the future. The budget package, a prominent union supporting legislator said at the time, was so obviously favorable that unions would have been mad to reject it.
During the short session that concluded on May 9, there was much huffing and puffing within Connecticut’s left of center media concerning unpalatable demands made by Mr. Malloy upon unionized teachers. The governor, drawing a firm line in the sand, insisted numerous times that teacher tenure should be connected directly to pedagogical performance in some of the state’s failing school systems, not at all an unreasonable demand in the private economy. But in a unionize environment in which performance and salary long have been decoupled by means of a byzantine evaluation system, such reasonable arrangements are considered politically inadvisable.
The far-sighted President Franklin Roosevelt steadfastly resisted the unionization of public sector workers because he understood that legislators at the beck and call of powerful union leaders would not be able to resist the awesome political pressure organized public sector unions would be able to exert on politicians willing and able to trade the public good for votes.
It was precisely such pressure that made Mr. Malloy’s knees buckle at last.
The sustained political assault on Mr. Malloy’s rather modest reforms was desperate, well organized, frantic and successful – usually the case when a politically cosseted group begins to suspect the political preferments that give the interest group an insuperable advantage over rival competitors may be withdrawn. The” playing field” that pits unionized teachers against non-profit pedagogical theoreticians or private and charter schools most certainly is not level. Among progressives and their enablers in Connecticut’s left of center media, leveling is proper only when employed in transferring liberty of choice from educational consumers to political groups that are equally progressive and well enough organized to deliver votes to progressive politicians.
The governor’s accommodation to union force majeure has so far been little more than an abject surrender – so much so that even faithful left of center columnists such as Rick Green gently spanked Mr. Malloy near the session’s end for having bowed to union pressure: “The Connecticut Education Association,” Mr. Green wrote, “out-muscled the first-term governor with an impressive show of force.”
All in all, the taffy pull between unions, Connecticut’s deep blue General Assembly and the governor was not a victory for the forces of light in Connecticut that wish to promote the public good — which is not, Speaker of the House Chris Donovan’s Stakhanovite efforts on behalf of unions notwithstanding, congruent with union interests.