The election for governor is one thing, but what in the world is the new man going to do in office once he gets there? Four observers chime in.
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Waiting For Christie
By Don Pesci
The Gubernatorial primaries sputtered out Aug. 10, leaving in their wake two ad-battered but standing gladiators: Republican Tom Foley and Democrat Dan Malloy. Everyone knew the primaries, internecine party warfare, were the easy part. The difficult part will arrive after November, when the last man standing will face a gargantuan state budget deficit of $3.5 billion in 2012, an unfunded liability debt of nearly $60 billion, a flat national economy, business flight to greener non-income tax, low-regulatory states, and a Democratic majority in the legislature used to surpluses that has steadfastly refused to accept ownership of the state’s most pressing problems.
Jodi Rell, a much diminished “firewall” standing between a spend-prone legislature and the wrath of some hard-pinched taxpayers, is due to make her exit soon, and the question before the house that cannot stand is: Who should replace her?
A short answer is someone like Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who, facing myriad problems similar to those in Connecticut, stood his principled ground in a difficult campaign, presented an unambiguous relief program, won election in a state dominated by Democrats, and surprised nearly everyone—but most especially jaded members of the mainstream media, who thought all the campaign hullabaloo was just the usual political palaver—by actually keeping his campaign promises, which Christie insisted were mandates. He could not have effected his rescue program without the support of some campaign-chastened and conscientious New Jersey Democrats, many of whom saw the future and knew it wouldn’t work.
Important decisions have to be made after November so that the business playing field may be tilted in favor of Connecticut. Temporary solutions—that is, any budget gimmick that does not permanently reconfigure Connecticut’s business posture relative to other states—must be strenuously resisted. In the long term, the state must bind itself to solutions to our economic woes more inflexible than the whimsical, short-term solutions proposed in the past by both Democratic leaders in the legislature and the departing Republican governor.
Real union concessions must be offered and accepted. Revenue enhancements, cold shoulders to any business considering expansion or a move into the state, must be avoided. Binding- arbitration reform should be the centerpiece of any long-term negotiation efforts to control budgets and the state’s destiny. In addition, as a corrective to the improvident spending that, in good times and bad, has moved Connecticut off the economic chess board, legislators should consider whatever state constitutional change is necessary to effect, at the very least, a state budget referendum, much like municipal referendums that have successfully beaten back spending attrition.
In the short term, some governmental operations should be privatized. All nonessential services and offices should be permanently closed. Collective bargaining should be suspended. Labor contracts should be redrafted so as to bring them in line with similar private-sector salaries and benefits. Borrowing, except for capital projects that affect statewide interests, should be drastically curtailed through new adamantine legislative regulations. Proper tax cuts necessary to spur economic growth and provide a genuine and effective stimulus to hard- pressed taxpayers and job seekers should be instituted.
The command economy, a deceptively attractive prospect for those in government who view large and oppressive regulatory schemes as necessary to continued prosperity, should be rejected in favor of an economy in which command decisions are made by purchasers of goods and services who “vote” with their dollars which enterprises will succeed or fail.
The next governor of Connecticut who has the courage to sell such hard-but-necessary measures to a public that feels in their bones their beloved state slipping slowly beneath the waves may possibly win office. New Jersey’s election of Christie is a sign of hope, a bright token that by a significant change in course Connecticut may reposition itself on higher and safer ground.
Don Pesci has for more than 25 years written political commentary for various state newspapers. His blog can be found at donpesci.blogspot.com.