The state's political leaders may not set out to confuse the public, but they don't mind if that's one result of their conflicting declarations and policies. It may be easier to win the hefty new Breakthrough Prize for Life Sciences that were handed out last week — and you need to be very smart indeed to snag that $3 million prize — than it is to reconcile the claims and proposals concocted in state government this year.
In December, hundreds of millions needed to be cut from the state budget to get this year's books to balance. The state's judicial branch took a hit. Weeks later, Democratic and Working Families Gov. Dannel P. Malloy nominated 15 lawyers to serve as judges of the Superior Court. That will add about $3 million a year to the state's expenses.
The people who run the courts have not been asking for new judges. They'd like raises for the ones already serving and they could use some additional support staff in courthouses, but they are not howling for new judges. Technology and the popularity of alternative dispute resolution have combined to make courthouses quieter places than they were a decade ago.
Still, making a friend or supporter a judge is a big prize among our political class, so the state's perilous finances are not allowed to trump that gift to what are often, though not always, campaign contributors. Some of the 15 will distinguish themselves on the bench as they've done in what came before in their lives. A couple will disgrace themselves in wielding the public trust as they have in other parts of their lives. Legislators, who know what hacks at least two of them are, will remain silent now and later.
Anyone who claims to be a serious guardian of the state's finances will forfeit that claim by voting to pad the benches of our courts. The one Republican among the 15 is former state Sen. Andrew Roraback. Do not expect the Senate Republicans to take a stand for fiscal prudence by voting against him or any of the others. It's a package deal. The House Republicans could not get Malloy to appoint their choice, so they are free to cast votes that match some of their rhetoric.
It's hard to believe the state's coffers are strained when the bond commission voted to give $7 million in public funds "[t]o finance environmental remediation and bulkhead replacement" on a 14-acre site in Stamford for Bridgewater Associates. That site will include, according to the Stamford Advocate, "a helipad, a floating recreational barge, a restored estuary and a marina."
Helipads, recreational barges and marinas are the province of the rich. They are for people who already have a lot of money. If Malloy believed one word of his rhetoric about working people, he would not be transferring the money they pay in taxes to the plutocrats at one of the world's largest hedge funds.
Some numbers will put this in perspective. The $750 million project will cost less than what the head of Bridgewater makes most years. Nevertheless, Malloy insists on handing over public funds to people who already have enormous amounts of money themselves. That they are spending it in Stamford, where Malloy served as mayor, only adds to the unsavory nature of his scheme.
The Advocate also reported Bridgewater declared in one land use application that one of the goals of the project is to provide "a strong connection to the living world." A corporate helipad's sole purpose is to keep executives from having contact with "the living world" as most of us experience it.
Malloy, who has shown a taste for raising taxes and spending, announced to local officials that the most hated tax in the state is the local car tax. He wants to eliminate it on the first $20,000 of a vehicle's value. The one tax Malloy wants to cut in one that goes into local coffers. This was not an idea he embraced several years ago when his predecessor, M. Jodi Rell, floated it in one of her fantasy budget proposals.
It's a reminder that these people, Republican or Democrat, are more similar than different. They spend a lot of time detached from "the living world."