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Who's A Spendthrift? Rell Didn't Cut Enough Herself

Hartford Courant

September 06, 2009

Gov. M. Jodi Rell gave majority Democrats in the legislature a verbal drubbing for being profligate spenders Tuesday when she announced she was letting their budget become law without her signature.

"They cannot cut state spending," the Republican chief executive said of the Democrats. "They cannot control state spending. They cannot resist the temptation of pork-barrel spending, even when we have record deficits. They cannot say no. And they cannot be pushed, pulled, charmed or dragged into doing the right thing. It's mind-boggling."

Mrs. Rell is more right than wrong about Democratic spending habits. After all, to pick an easy example, they not only left money in the budget so that nonessential advocacy commissions the taxpayer-supported offices that focus on issues concerning African Americans, the elderly, children, Latinos and women could continue to exist, but they even added $25,000 for a new panel on Asian-American issues.

At a time of economic crisis, restructuring government to diminish its size and cost would seem to be an imperative. That makes the failure of the legislature to eliminate all funding (a total of about $4 million) for commissions that do good work but aren't an essential function of government look all the more weak. And adding new money for a new commission in the face of falling tax revenues is sort of mind-boggling, as the governor said.

Mrs. Rell said she would "help" Democrats do the right thing by using her line-item veto authority to strike down about $8 million in new "pork barrel" spending in the budget money for studies and local projects and organizations. "Well-intentioned pork, no doubt but pork nonetheless," she exclaimed.

The governor, of course, could have gone a lot further in using her line-item veto authority to make her point emphatically. She could have taken out budget line items worth millions or scores of millions of dollars. She could have eliminated the advocacy commissions. Or she could have continued to go small-bore, and scratched money she had put back in the budget for example, funds to pay dues to the National Governors' Association, whose meetings she seldom attends.

The point is that both the legislature and the governor are going to have to be a lot more tough-minded when it's time to put together the next two-year budget.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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