Credit Ned Lamont for some honesty anyway, not that he easily could have gotten away with dissembling, given his party’s domination by the government employee unions and other government dependents. But last week Lamont, the candidate endorsed for governor by the Democratic State Convention, said that if he is elected he will propose raising taxes - for starters, the sales tax - as well as putting tolls on limited-access highways.
Of course Lamont added that he would seek to “streamline” state government to cut costs, but he wasn’t specific about that. Such talk is just the obligatory boilerplate for tax raisers. State government is always being “streamlined” and yet somehow always costing more.
Most candidates still in the running for the Republican nomination for governor have said they would curtail state employee compensation, particularly pensions. But the Republicans have not offered many specifics beyond that even as balancing the state budget is projected to require another $4 billion in revenue or savings over the next two years. Just curtailing state employee compensation won’t come close to that.
In these circumstances no candidate for governor should reach Election Day without first issuing a detailed budget proposal showing increases or reductions in every major category of spending and taxes. After all, the next governor will have to be ready with a budget within weeks of taking office. After executive appointments, the budget will be the new administration’s first order of business. So demanding tax and spending specifics should be the first objective of the voters.
Cathy Malloy on criminal justice
Some of his policy prescriptions have been questionable, but no Connecticut governor has demonstrated more concern about criminal justice than Dan Malloy. Last week the governor and his wife, Cathy, led a conference at the state prison in Cheshire, showcasing a program that has young prisoners mentored by prison staffers and older prisoners doing hard time. The young prisoners, most of whom will be released before long, respond well to mentoring and aspire to stay out of trouble.
It was Mrs. Malloy who got closest to the big underlying problems of criminal justice. She told the prisoners that many of them ended up in prison because people had given up on them, and she recounted having been robbed on the street years ago by someone seeking money for illegal drugs.
That is, crime these days is largely a matter of child neglect - lack of parenting - and drug criminalization.
Recognizing the failure of the criminal approach to the drug problem, Connecticut has been gradually medicalizing it, to the point where few ordinary users are being jailed for mere possession or sale of small amounts. But changes in national policy are required.
As for child neglect and lack of parenting, how welfare policy contributes to them is not yet on government’s agenda.
In part because of the trend toward medicalization in sentencing in drug cases, Connecticut’s prison population has fallen by 30 percent in 10 years. But this trend seems to have corresponded with an increase in chronic and incorrigible offenders. Even as the conference in Cheshire was being held, a career criminal with 130 arrests and 46 convictions was arraigned in court in Hartford for another burglary.
That someone can have 46 convictions and still be on the loose indicates that the “second-chance society” advocated by the governor is already quite an overachiever.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.