The Connecticut state budget cha-cha-cha is a clear example of the value of discipline and focus in politics.
Once Gov. Dan Malloy and his Democratic legislative pals had enthusiastically raised tax rates, Dan could safely go to the state employee labor unions and assorted nonprofits that feed on government dole and explain that all was well.
The tax increases will not be temporary. The revenue enhancers are now in place forever. Malloy, with a wink and a nod, can explain to the 'big government' alliance that while there may be embarrassing, short-term layoffs and cutbacks, before you know it, the economy will perk up — and we'll still have all that tax revenue to play with.
The Great Unwashed ended its habit of electing a Republican governor to stave off the worst of what the Democratic legislative majority had to offer. In the midst of Tea Party fervor across the nation, virtually every incumbent, including the free-spending liberals, was re-elected in Connecticut.
The result is a juggernaut; not only are the tax-and-spenders in charge, but when the politicians and the unions and the social service types come together, they represent a political voting bloc almost impossible to budge by a diverse voting population that likes a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
One of the tools available to voters in many states is the referendum — a direct vote by the people to legislate or kill off various aspects of government at work and play. While some local cities and towns in Connecticut allow voters to engage in such thumbs-up, thumbs-down behavior, the state prohibits it, unless authorized not by the people, but by the legislators.
Despite all the dreamy propaganda about our smart, sophisticated, well-educated population, the legislators and their pals are not about to give up the power to tax and spend and have a general good time. Pests from the outside having a vote on the fun? Nope.
There was a time when referenda were considered a tool of the left; a technique by which 'railroad barons' and other rich folks could be challenged, when they got too chummy with the powers-that-be in state government. Now that the liberals hare cobbled together a sufficiently unstoppable machine, referenda have lost their appeal.
Even aside from the ability to nibble at the margin of the fiscal mess with referenda votes, the 'direct Democracy' process has some other charms that might well be of interest in Connecticut.
What could be a better example of the current failure of political will and the rule of law than Connecticut's absurd death-penalty paralysis? Public opinion polls clearly show that most voters still want it on the books — despite its unfashionable image. The end result? Connecticut has a 'death penalty,' but works very hard never to actually execute anyone. This legislative session, one awful murder-rape, home invasion incident was sufficient to apparently end the latest effort for repeal — as if anyone was close to actually being executed. But such things shouldn't be based on anecdote.
The voters should be offered the death penalty repeal as a referendum question. Again, reinforce the will of the people, with at least a make-believe promise than monstrous killers will be executed, if that is what the citizenry prefers.
Even the mundane can be rescued from legislative mischief through referendum. Selling booze on Sundays? Why should this be decided by anything other than a vote of the people? Yes, the little liquor stores are very cute, but whether they deserve a mandated, weekly state holiday is something for the thirsty voters to decide.
Laurence D. Cohen is a freelance writer.