Gov. Dannel Malloy is leaving office as our state’s most unpopular governor in decades having secured Connecticut’s reputation as the most mismanaged state in the nation. For a well regarded mayor and former public prosecutor from our only prosperous city, it is a surprising outcome. What are the lessons here?
Gov. Malloy and his team severely understated decades of state fiscal mismanagement and how poorly Connecticut was positioned for the major national economic boom. Early on, faced with revenue shortfalls and loyal to his public union supporters, he levied two largest ever tax hikes. It was an event without precedent in the nation that dramatically altered prospects for our state’s economy, leading to a major exodus of firms, jobs, residents and an outflow of wealth in the billions clouding our future for decades.
Knowledgeable fiscal analysts agree Connecticut is in dire straits. Economic growth takes place in cities. But ours are mostly welfare dependent. Our part-time legislature representing a staggering 169 towns is poorly positioned to solve major economic and fiscal problems decades in the making. And we lack front line colleges and universities generating a highly skilled labor force required for the modern hi-tech computer age. Nearby New York and Massachusetts are booming. We are floundering with employment unchanged since 2000. A sad picture indeed.
So what are the lessons? Like most states, Connecticut elects governors with political, not business backgrounds. They in turn hire politically capable senior staffs, not highly regarded professionals. Our state government is heavily influenced by our public state and municipal unions –among the most powerful and highly paid in the nation. But most of all we are handicapped by providing municipal services among 169 towns for just a 3 million-plus population served by just a part-time legislature lacking the usually found political skills. And served by a skeleton staff.
Blaming Gov. Malloy for our state’s woes may be comforting. But it ignores the realities of a failed state governance stretching back decades. Progress requires acknowledging those realities. Not trusting just a change in guard. Electing new faces by themselves won’t change our future.
Peter I. Berman of Norwalk held positions at Bank of America, various Wall Street firms and the Chamber of Gold Mines in South Africa. He’s a published author who has made numerous presentations before municipal and state governments, the U.S. Congress. Upon retirement he taught graduate finance at the University of New Haven for several decades.