Reminder: Warranted Mistrust

In December this column warned, “As Governor-elect Lamont initiates programs to accelerate repair of Connecticut finances and economy, view Republican criticisms with the extreme mistrust they warrant.”

Connecticut Republicans continue to deceive, subverting public discourse about problems and solutions into crude efforts to generate fear, instill cynicism, and misinform.

Governor Malloy was the first governor in decades to reduce state spending and trim the ranks of state employees, while also overseeing record private sector employment. Nonetheless, Republicans, including Ridgefield’s own representatives, routinely portrayed spending under Malloy as “out-of-control” and the state as hostile to private sector job creation.

Republicans now attack Governor Lamont’s new efforts to reign in state spending. Lamont has proposed various initiatives to trim undesirable duplication and waste. The initiatives should be scrutinized and tested. Instead, Republicans are distorting and fear mongering. Republicans, who easily contemplate mass firing of public employees and reneging on retiree pensions, are suddenly apoplectic at the possibility small rural towns with student populations a fraction the size of Ridgefield’s, but with far higher spending-per-student and that receive several times Ridgefield’s total state education funding, might be encouraged by the state to share rather than each separately employ multiple highly-paid bureaucrats.

Similarly, Governor Malloy fully funded pension obligations every year of his term, and also initiated a long-term effort to pay off the decades of unfunded liabilities accumulated by his Republican predecessors. Governor Lamont has proposed to continue, refine and accelerate that long-term plan to permanently fix a major source Connecticut’s fiscal insecurity. Nonetheless, Republicans falsely portrayed Malloy as a primary creator of the unfunded pension liabilities he inherited, and now falsely portray Lamont as ignoring the liabilities for which he is accelerating the repair.

In addition to cutting spending and paying down unfunded liabilities, Governor Lamont’s balanced approach to fiscal/economic health envisions new revenues – including highway tolls. Tolls are a classic user fee, capturing revenue from the direct users of a state-provided/maintained asset. Tolls uniquely derive revenue from non-residents. All neighboring and nearby states have tolls. Connecticut residents pay tolls to other states; the reverse should also occur. Republicans’ “objections” to tolls consist entirely of horror stories directly disproved by daily commuter experience to neighboring states.

Against all reason and logic, Republicans continue insisting upon massive, extremely regressive tax cuts despite decades of such schemes generating enormous deficits and inflicting tremendous long-term harms on education and essential services.

Thus, Ridgefield Democrats renew the warning. We are now nearing the end of the second month of the Lamont Administration. The deluge of misleading GOP rhetoric has been nonstop. Cast a skeptical eye. The same folks who peddle deceptions to defend Donald Trump and to denigrate Obama and Malloy, haven’t turned over a new leaf. And, like bad card players, they have a clear tell: the more indignant and excited they appear, the bigger the whoppers they are peddling.

Alex Harris is Chair of the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee, which provides this column.