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Last month Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gave a campaign speech to a government employee union rally at the state Capitol, boasting that unionization of government workers has increased dramatically during his administration and rousing the union members with his conclusion: "I am your servant."
When video of the speech was posted on the Internet, some people were disabused of their impression that the governor was not the servant of the union members but their manager. Questioned about it, a spokesman said the governor had been speaking generally and meant that he is the servant of all the people.
Yet that did not seem to be how the union rally construed the governor, given his boast about having increased unionization in government employment. There is no record of the governor consoling with, "I am your servant," those people who have been concerned about the decline of public administration and transparency since he took office.
After all, the union members at that rally at the Capitol are organized not against the Koch Brothers or other infamous plutocrats but against everyone else - against taxpayers.
This is an issue of policy involving the great bulk of state and municipal government spending, most of which is payroll, and billions could be saved by addressing it. So it should be an issue in the campaign for governor that has just begun, but for two reasons it probably won't be.
First, the government employee unions are not only the base of the Democratic Party but also the most powerful special interest in Connecticut, and Republicans are always afraid of saying anything that will mobilize them politically even more. And second, the aspirants for the Republican nomination for governor seem to think that this time they can pry many government employees away from the governor because of his erratic flirtation with "education reform," which briefly included proposals to weaken tenure for teachers and connect their job evaluations with student performance. Those proposals greatly alienated teachers, whose unions are the fiercest beasts of all.
Also suspecting that government employees can be pried away from the governor is former state Rep. Jonathan Pelto, D-Mansfield, a Democratic campaign operative who seems to have aspired to a job in the Malloy administration and, having been rejected, threw himself into denouncing the administration for what he calls the corporatization of education. Pelto aims to petition himself onto the ballot as an independent candidate for governor, thereby giving government employees the dream of more than the domination they enjoy under Malloy - the dream of utter supremacy over the state.
Of course it's unlikely that Pelto could draw more than a few thousand votes. But since the margin in the gubernatorial election four years ago was only 6,000 and polls show the current contest tied, even with a few thousand votes Pelto and the union supremacists could teach Democrats what "rule or ruin" means.
Hence the governor's posturing as the "servant" of the unions - and hence the posturing of the candidate for governor endorsed by the Republican state convention, Greenwich businessman Tom Foley, the party's nominee four years ago, who has taken to accusing the governor of having reduced spending on education.
While the Malloy administration has moved education money around, education in Connecticut is as bloated and feckless as ever if learning is the objective. For state and national test data show that from half to three-quarters of Connecticut high school graduates and college freshmen have failed high school English, math, or both on account of the longstanding statewide policy of social promotion.
Addressing this issue also could save billions. Instead the campaign for governor seems unable to rise above pandering to the unions, which will just cost billions more.