Here is a governor with 25 years of Capitol experience, arguably the most popular elected leader in Connecticut and a woman who has nothing to lose because she isn't running for re-election.
What an opportunity.
Instead Gov. M. Jodi Rell gave us a state budget that just kicks the can down the road.
We have a government we can't afford. We don't need more taxes. We need streamlined state agencies, but also new initiatives to nurture business growth and achievement in our schools. We're facing a $3 billion deficit in a year. Job losses from this recession will eventually break 100,000.
"The people of Connecticut are looking to us to help them," Rell told the packed statehouse, getting my hopes up at the start of her speech. "They are looking to us to lead. They are looking to us to right our ship of state."
It went south from there. It's fine that she's not raising taxes, that she's preserving funding for towns and schools and even getting the trains running to New London again. Backing a program for new loans for struggling small businesses so they can create jobs is a good move that Democrats will embrace. But how can we listen to the governor's call for civility when another opportunity passes us by?
I beg you, Governor, not another commission to study the big problems we face!
Yes, Gov. Rell wants to create a 24-member "Government for the 21st Century Commission" to study how we can "streamline" state government. This will just shove the problem into the lap of the next governor, which, I realize, is precisely the idea.
Thankfully, two of the leading candidates for governor who were there listening, Republican Tom Foley and Democrat Dan Malloy, didn't buy it.
"There are no real concrete recommendations of how to deal with things," Malloy said. "Too little, too late."
Foley, the only candidate who admits we need to slice away $1 billion in spending, asked me where the budget cutting was. "I wish she would talk more about making the state more business friendly," he said.
Mary Glassman, the Simsbury first selectman who really would make a good governor, was more concise.
"What you saw today was a governor who put the state on autopilot," Glassman said. "Where is the solution? We can't study it. We don't have time."
And Ned Lamont, busily working the crowd, stopped to say he wished Rell had offered "some sense of direction."
Only Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele said he thought the governor hit the right notes, with her comments about job creation and budget balancing.
The problem, sadly, was that Rell had an opportunity many politicians are never offered: the chance to really do something. Unfortunately for us, she's taking a pass
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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