Flawed proposals from both major parties

Leaders of the Republican minority in the General Assembly last week proposed some sensible alternatives to parts of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's state budget.

The Republicans' accounting would be more honest, eliminating some "gimmicks" by which the governor and the legislature's Democratic majority pretend that government has more money than it does and set the state up for another billion-dollar deficit after the election.

The Republicans would divert the imaginary state budget surplus into debt repayment and cancel the tax rebates the governor wants to send to voters just weeks before they decide on his re-election. The Republicans also would cancel the governor's other bribe, an income tax exemption for retired teachers, an ordinarily Democratic constituency lately much annoyed by the governor's erratic flirtation with what calls itself education reform.

The Republicans would block the keno game thoughtlessly authorized by the governor and Democratic legislators last year and soon regretted as more gambling exploiting the poor. The Republicans would cut funding for the state university and community college systems, which social promotion has turned into glorified high schools with bloated salaries. And the Republicans would cancel state government's earned income tax credit for the working poor.

While the latter proposal has prompted the most criticism from Democrats, income redistribution is more the business of the federal government than state government even as state government long has failed with its basics, like appropriating adequately for special education, the mentally handicapped, and the mentally ill. Since they always find money for raises for the public employees whose unions dominate their party but never can find enough money for the neediest, the bleating of the keno Democrats is tiresome.

But in the end why should most people care about the Republicans' proposed budget adjustments? Their tax relief would be trivial, restoring a couple of sales tax exemptions. And according to the state budget office, the Republican budget's total spending would be only a tenth of a percent less than what the governor has proposed. Thus the Republicans effectively ratify his record tax increases.

So is this really some "vision" for Connecticut, a departure from the declining path the state is pursuing? Does it address the collapse of standards in education and the worsening of poverty by policies purporting to alleviate it? Does it give hope of transforming the state's economy?

So far the candidates for the Republican nomination for governor have not been any more impressive. Most of them criticize the Malloy administration's economic development grants as corporate welfare, but nearly every Republican in the state House of Representatives last week voted for the administration's biggest corporate welfare package yet, $400 million for United Technologies Corp.

Two Republican gubernatorial aspirants, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney of Fairfield and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, are moving away from their association with gun control so as to ingratiate themselves with the party's gun enthusiasts.

The leading candidate, 2010 nominee Tom Foley, seems mainly to be trying to protect his lead by avoiding debates.

Former attorney general nominee Martha Dean, now running for governor, is at least unafraid to say what she thinks but it may not be long before she is back advocating firearms training for high school students and the right of states to secede from the Union. That many fatherless kids in welfare households in Connecticut's cities know only too well how to use guns has yet to be recognized as a policy failure by either political party.

Connecticut's Republicans seem to think that the state's economic decline will continue and that in their foul mood voters will elect a Republican governor by default, more out of spite than any expectation of change. Maybe so, but that won't be a mandate to govern.

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