One-Party Politics in Connecticut: The Elephant Not In the Room
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Democrats can point to legislation and “progress” to show their way is effective. Republicans counter that Democrats are acting like greedy children, overzealous to change policies that don’t help residents.
“Clearly Connecticut is out of balance and is suffering from one-party Democratic rule,” says Labriola. “They have given us massive tax hikes and bad policies which have retarded job growth. These self-inflicted wounds have put us in a state where more than half of Connecticut families live paycheck to paycheck.”
Despite being outnumbered, Republicans do play an important part in the process. “Their role is to point out alternate perspective in their point of view and criticize the majority’s proposals and campaign on that critique,” says Democratic Majority Leader Looney (New Haven). “If they think they can convert people, to make changes based on their critiques, that’s what our process is all about. But if you did have divided government, you would likely have more gridlock.”
That’s the way the voters have decided, says House Speaker Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden). “Voters ultimately decide who is elected,” Sharkey says. “The fact is that before Dan Malloy the last Democratic governor was in the 1980s. I certainly don’t believe residents want us to be like Washington, where gridlock rules the day.”
Sharkey says he’s set a tone, and wants to ensure that bills are passed on a “bipartisan basis.”
He adds: “One of the most important examples is the historic gun-safety bill passed just one year ago, one of the strongest in the nation. No other state legislature of Congress have been able to accomplish this.”
Some argue those examples of bipartisanship demonstrate that one-party rule isn’t the only way to get things done.
The minority party has “had a long tradition in Connecticut of being ready, willing and able to walk into a room with the majority and try to find out where there’s common ground,” says State Sen. John McKinney (R-Fairfield), who is currently running for governor. “With one-party rule our ability to walk into that room is limited.”
McKinney compares the period when Republican Jodi Rell was governor to when Malloy first took office. McKinney says state Republicans aren’t invited into the room or conversation to talk about the budget, though when Rell was governor and there was still a Democratic majority, Republicans were included. “It’s extremely frustrating to know that Republicans represent roughly 35 percent of the people in Connecticut, over a million people in this state, and yet those voices are silenced by the Democrats,” he says.
McKinney claims those budget examples show that Connecticut wouldn’t be like Washington, D.C., even in the event of Republican leadership. “The reality is, it’s just the opposite,” he says. “We have had a long tradition of not engaging in bitter partisan gridlocks for the sake of gridlock, quite frankly. And I gave you what is perhaps the most important issue—our state budget—solved without any gridlock. I think what the Democrats mean to say is, ‘When we had a Republican governor we didn’t get to pass every liberal progressive policy that we’ve been wanting to pass.’”