Saturday, April 29, 2006

Rell on Losing Side of Budget Compromise

Governor's Tax Repeals Scrapped

Gov. Rell and the Democratic legislature today reached a tentative agreement on the budget which leaves out most of the governor's plans:
Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Democratic legislative leaders agreed Saturday to a one-year budget that abandoned a plan to abolish Connecticut's car tax, a centerpiece of the Republican governor's proposed budget.

Rell also lost out on her proposal to phase out the state inheritance tax.

But the nearly $16.1 billion tax and spending plan, which takes effect July 1, axed some key initiatives the majority Democrats wanted, such as a $500 tax credit for low-income taxpayers and a new earned income tax credit program, Democratic leaders said.(AP)
So the governor lost two of the major proposals she unveiled in her state of the state speech, while the Democrats lost two tax credits.

Wait a minute. Did the Democrats just come out ahead of the governor on something?

See for yourselves. The budget increases the property tax credit, puts more money into the rainy day fund and the teachers' retirement fund, gives aid to cities and towns, and provides more funding for nursing homes.

Aside from the re-stocking of the rainy day fund and possibly the property tax credit increase, these are Democratic issues. The governor couldn't really get any of the things she wanted done. I don't see how this is good for her at all.

What's interesting about this is that in the past, Rell has been able to make compromises break her way. Stem cells, civil unions, public funding of campaigns and even the recent transportation bill have somehow ended up making the governor look good. She seems to dart around the edge of the General Assembly, pitching compromises at them, while fretting and fuming when they're too slow to react. This time, it seems like the Democrats actually caught up with her, and struck a deal more favorable to them.

Perhaps the Democratic leadership is finally starting to pull it together. Maybe Rell's standing with the legislature has been hurt by the Zarella scandal. Whatever the cause, it seems clear that Rell's influence over this legislature is starting to erode.


"Budget deal kills Rell's prized car tax elimination plan." Associated Press 29 April, 2006.


ctkeith said...

GC Wrote,
What's interesting about this is that in the past, Rell has been able to make compromises break her way. Stem cells, civil unions, public funding of campaigns and even the recent transportation bill have somehow ended up making the governor look good.

Can you tell me which one of those issues made REPUBLICANS happy?

Genghis Conn said...

To Republican partisans and social conservatives? None of them. In fact, most of the Republicans in the legislature didn't support those initiatives.

Legislative Republicans are irrelevant, and Rell doesn't really care what social conservatives think. This leaves her trying to pass her own agenda all by herself. She may be most effective when she's proposing compromises to Democratic plans.

Chris MC said...

GC, I've noticed that the Democratic leadership in both chambers has gotten markedly more effective in this second session of their first term in office.

I've noticed something else: The Malloy Effect. His proposals and focus on Rell has effected her positions at least a couple of times now. And the DeStefano heating oil deal was an unalloyed coup which she could not co-opt.

The fact that she now faces a direct challenge from formidible contenders for her job is certainly an important influence this spring.

Genghis Conn said...


You're right about the Dem leadership: they're getting a lot better at handling and anticipating Rell's moves. The car tax, for instance, was DOA. I don't think it was ever really on the table.

Malloy in particular has been very good at shadow governing--that is, responding with his own ideas and the actions he would take whenever Rell does something. DeStefano has also done this, but it's seemed like he's a step behind Malloy.

Patricia Rice said...

Rell needed to compromise because she was proposing bad policy. Not even Republicans supported her "Thank You Jodi" car elimination plan. Democrats did a nice job at not letting grandma sink this state further in to the Rowland hole. She is losing her ability to govern and this is the begininng of her slide.

I will ask again, what and who's votes were "fixed" according to the Courant website to help the friends of John? Yes it said "FIXED VOTES"!!!!!!!!!

ctkeith said...


You must feel horribly betrated by Rell.You were literally the first person in Ct to write something in strong support of Rells car tax elimination proposal and She abandoned it wothout even a teeny tiny fight.

You think maybe it wasn't a serious proposal in the first place?
Could it have been a gimmick to help spread the Jodi the taxcutter Meme?
You think the fact that not one Executive of any of the Cities or towns in the state supported it Helped Rell make up her mind to cave on it?

Genghis Conn said...

Rell is pragmatic. She is willing to abandon fruitless policy positions in order to move forward. While it's frustrating at times, it's better than digging in for a pointless fight.

I still think there was some merit to the car tax plan, but the way she wanted to pay for it doomed it.

Brass Tacks said...

GC, Chris:

Today's picture in the Courant says it all. This marks the first time that the Dems in the legislature ACTED like they were the majority party. They flexed their muscles and used their numbers.

Rell's best case scenario was to play this to a draw, and they've handed her a more potent issue (axe the car tax) to bring into the election. Likewise, the Dems can run on their earned income tax credit. But I think people will remember what a pain in the neck car taxes are this summer, and the issue will play to her favor if she plays it right.

(Not sure I agree that Malloy's hand is at play here, other than the fact that most legislative Dems are on his side. He is playing this well, though.)

Chris MC said...

BT -
Have to disagree with you there. This was a political winner at the municipal level for the Dems, that is a big part of why it was DOA.

If Gov. Rell and the Republicans want to debate whether Tommy Hilfiger deserves a tax break on his seven-figures worth of automobiles or not, I predict we will have the advantage.

The strategic problem that Gov. Rell faces is that she has chosen, not to lead, to use her political capital the way a strong executive should and would, but to sit on her lead. She is running to not lose.

Nobody wants a mail-it-in Governor, and that is exactly what she is. Big problem for her, wait and see.

MikeCT said...

The budget will be voted on today. Not crazy about this idea, since the rush limits accountability and probably about eight people know what's in it.

The bill also includes a "tax deduction on the income tax for people who contribute to the Connecticut Higher Education Trust Fund, also known as CHET." This was a proposal from Treasurer Denise Nappier, who administers CHET, which is CT's college savings plan (aka 529 plan).

Debate on the budget bill will presumably be aired on CT-N.

On CT-N, I caught the tail end of some discussion among legislators - apparently Rep. Lew Wallace of Danbury will not be running for office again.

Brass Tacks said...

cmc c:

I see your point, however, the "municipal" argument was made mostly by the Conference of Crying Mayors (CCM) and involved grants, formulas, and stuff that readers of this blog would be interested in, but I still believe the notion of "no more car tax" has legs.

Your running not to lose theory may be prophetic. This whole race is going to change the moment the Deomcrats have a nominee. Then we'll see how the Governor runs her race.

Still, I'll remake my point that the Dems have held majorities in the House and Senate since 1996, and they haven't acted like a Majority until just this year.

2007 will be just as interesting with Rell or Malloy (whom I think will emerge as the Dem nominee).

CTObserver said...

I haven't had time to dig through the details, but more than anything else, the mid-term budget adjustments (which is what it is, not a whole new budget) strikes me as rather 'status quo.' No new wide-spread tax breaks, no huge new initiatives, just pay down some debt (which is what the Teacher Pension Fund and the Rainy Day fund (future debt)are), and otherwise take a pass till next year. A pretty good defense when JDS and DM attack is going to be 'Go ask Amman'.

Chris MC said...

"Go ask Amman"? I dunno about that. The esoterica of the CCM position is not going to be the subject of debate at most people's kitchen table, it is true. To a lesser degree, most people don't know who Amman is.

And does Gov. Rell really want to make her response, to the observation that she is a make-do occupant of the mansion rather than a can-do executive, to throw up her hands and pass the buck? That would be a pretty clear demonstration of our case.

AnonAndOnAndOn said...

Oh, and the idea of making CHET contributions tax deductible is fantastic, but count Nappier as one of the later supporters.

For those keeping score, this started with the GOP legislators in 97 and 98, was passed by the Education Committee in 2000, but ultimately snuffed out, according to the CGA web site.

For those paying tuitions, who gives a crap... it's gonna pass!