Category Archives: Budget

The Un-Veto

As part of her non-signing of the budget bill last week (it goes into effect late today) Gov. Jodi Rell said she would veto $8 million in spending that she referred to as “pork.”

Turns out that pork will stand after all. Oink!

Apparently there is the possibility of a court fight, and Gov. Rell doesn’t really want to bother with that. So the budget will pass in its entirety.

In Defense of Solitaire

On Tuesday morning, radio host Jim Vicevich was fired up the instant his microphone went hot. 

He opened his “Sound Off Connecticut” show with a withering critique of the state budget passed by Legislative Democrats and focused considerable ire on the photo he’d seen on the Hartford Courant’s website, depicting two legislators playing solitaire and a third checking 

Within two hours, that photo had made the jump from the Courant website to the infamous Drudge Report, where it blasted worldwide.  For the rest of the week, cable news anchors have generated faux outrage, political candidates grumbled about shamelessness, and casual observers rolled their eyes.

Jim Amann, former Speaker and erstwhile candidate for Governor, got a good barb in at his former colleague speaking in the photo, House Republican Leader Larry Cafero, saying: “If anybody has listened to Larry Cafero, it’s the same speech five or six or seven times a year, and it causes solitaire to pop up.”

The Milford Republican Town Committee has gotten into the act as well.  Referencing the solitaire-playing legislator from their town, they will soon be the proud hosts of the Rep. Barbara Lambert Solitaire Tournament.

But with a movement afoot to ban such activities in the Hall of the House, there is a contrarian view that has to be expressed here.  We don’t need less solitaire in the House of Representatives – we need more.

State legislators, when confronted with a bill for state government that exceeded revenues by $8.5 billion, simply put the debt on the state credit card and went home.  They didn’t make the kind of hard decisions required by billion dollar deficits; instead, they securitized $1.3 billion of “undefined revenue streams”.  They didn’t conduct an honest line-by-line review of every state program, ending the ones that don’t work and investing in the ones that do.

The situation demanded the very best from our legislators and instead they punted.  The Governor did well to hold the line as long as she did, but even she ultimately used her Get Out of Jail Free card as Genghis noted.

So given their performance, it would be better if all the legislators spent more of their time playing solitaire.

Gov. Rell Pushes the Easy Button

Connecticut has some great ways to get out of making decisions. For example, the part in the constitution that allows a bill to become law if the governor just doesn’t bother to sign it after a certain length of time passes (the constitution was obviously written in part by legislators). In essence, the constitution allows the executive to take no responsibility whatsoever for a bill.

Gov. Rell has decided today to do just that. She will allow the recently-passed budget to become law without her signature, ending a months-long budget standoff with a mild whimper.

The governor was faced with a difficult choice, to be sure. The Democrats’ budget was not quite what she wanted, but it was close enough that the public would see little real difference. Signing it would enrage Republicans. Vetoing it would lead to annoyed Democrats and yet another round of exhausting negotiations coupled with the continuation of the unbelievably ham-handed PR campaign on the part of both parties.

And so, the governor took the only option that would allow her to avoid the pitfalls of signing or vetoing: doing nothing.

Allowing the budget to go into effect without her approval sends a few important messages. The first is that the governor still does not like the budget, but that her opinion doesn’t matter in the end.

The second message is that the governor’s tough talk about reshaping government, holding the line on taxes and playing tough with the Democrats were really just words. In the end, though there was an epic stalemate for a while, it was Jodi Rell who blinked.

Conservatives will argue that she should have held the line. If you remember, Gov. Lowell Weicker vetoed budget after budget before the legislature finally passed the income tax. Weicker realized an essential truth about the legislature: it is lazy, easily distracted and likes going home. Jodi Rell is an alumna of the legislature, however, and while she has often been able to outwit its molasses-slow leadership, she obviously wasn’t willing to wait around (or have the state wait around) to find out what would happen if she became the brick wall Weicker was.

Politically, this non-decision hurts the governor. She’s going to have a hard time explaining to other Republicans why she backed away from tough talk on taxes, especially when the GOP base has worked itself into a frothing frenzy on the issue nationally. She also seems like she’s not really in charge, like she’s abdicated responsibility for one of the most important things the legislature and governor do.

This raises all sorts of questions for next year. Can she run and win? Will Republicans support her? I suspect many voters will still like her (there’s precious little that’s concrete to attack), but a more decisive opponent may be able to find cracks in her armor.

And, the biggest question of all, is this the action of someone ready to leave public life? Or the canny action of a politician playing to the center in advance of an election fight?

The third message her actions today send, and it’s a bit more positive, is that Jodi Rell really is the adult in the room–sort of. The state needs a budget. The Republicans, both in the legislature and as a state party, are a small and ineffective minority who can’t help her. The budget had been moved to the right probably as far as it was going to go without another two months of grueling negotiations. Towns need state grants, agencies need funding. The Democratic leadership did little beyond bluster, and seemed to need the prodding of the governor to get anything done.

But adults make hard decisions. If the right thing to do here was to let an imperfect budget stand, then the governor should have signed it.

Instead, she pushed the easy button.

Rell Won't Veto Budget

We have a budget!

The governor has just announced at a press conference that she will not veto the budget passed by the legislature last night, but that it will go into effect without her signature.

She faulted the legislature for not passing enough spending cuts, but stressed the need for compromise.

Take that, Pennsylvania!

The governor also chided legislators for playing cards while Larry Cafero talked. For shame.

Two-second analysis: This is the option that allows the governor to take as little responsibility as possible. Democrats won’t be too happy, but they won’t be as irritated as they’d be if she’d vetoed it. Republicans will be annoyed, but they won’t be as furious as they’d be if she’d signed it. And so life carries on.

Senate Passes Budget

The Senate passed the latest proposed budget early Tuesday morning by a vote of 22-13. Sen. Joan Hartley once again crossed party lines and voted with the GOP against the budget.

The budget now goes to Gov. Rell. There is no word as of right now whether she’ll sign it.

House Passes Budget

CTNJ has the story. Nine Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the budget.

The Senate is debating the budget now.

It’s unknown whether the governor will sign it.

Capitol News Roundup

The big news is that the legislature will be debating a budget tonight. The bill is similar to the proposal by Gov. Rell, though not in all ways. For instance, the estate tax is lowered, not eliminated. You can read the bill here.

The House has voted to borrow $950 million to cover the budget gap instead of letting the rainy day fund make up the difference. The fund will be used in 2010 and 2011.

Lastly, it looks like the Citizens’ Election Program will be allowed to continue while an appeal against a recent ruling is pending.