Defending Connecticut's ideals in this age of Trump
In his last formal address to the General Assembly, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy delivered a progressive anti-Trump manifesto that sought to move away from the topic that has dominated the discourse in Hartford for much of his two terms in office — the state’s continuing fiscal problems.
It was a reminder that Malloy is a skilled politician. His approval ratings are abysmal, no doubt, a product of having expended every bit of his political capital in trying to balance state finances weighed down by the underfunded pension obligations and mountains of debt that preceded his entry into office more than seven years ago.
At various points his policy proposals to try to restore fiscal stability have alienated taxpayers and businesses by way of big tax increases, state labor unions by repeated demands for concessions, and liberals due to reductions in social spending commitments.
But in delivering his address Wednesday, Malloy, setting aside finances, outlined how the core principles of the Democratic Party in Connecticut could prove appealing for a large segment of the electorate eager to send a message of disgust with President Trump and his Republican Party.
On point after point — the treatment of immigrants, gun control, tolerance of dissent, health care, the environment, access to voting — Malloy contrasted the priorities of Connecticut, and by extension the Democratic Party that has controlled the state, with the priorities of Trump and the Republican Congress.
“We’ve been driven by Connecticut fairness,” said Malloy, who made fairness the theme of his address.
In so doing, the departing Democrat laid the groundwork for the choice he feels his party should present to voters in 2018 — Trump or us.
“We can stop the tides of prejudice and hate from washing away our progress and drowning our ideals,” he added near the speech’s conclusion. Malloy did not have to mention who was producing the “tides” he referenced.
Normally, the purpose of the even-year gubernatorial address is to outline the staid details of readjusting the second year of the state’s two-year budget plan. Malloy signaled he was up to something when, instead of waiting, he had presented the fiscal bad news two days earlier. He called then to boost cigarette, hotel, and real estate conveyance taxes; close a sales tax exemption for over-the-counter medications; reduce state aid to many municipalities and make other cuts, as the state again confronts projected deficits for this fiscal year and beyond.
On Wednesday, in focusing often on women — whom polls show rejecting Trump and Republicans policies in large numbers — Malloy received some of his loudest applause.
He called upon Connecticut to pass a bill that preserves the most vital elements of the Affordable Care Act, including the individual mandate, eliminated by the Republican Congress.
“Let’s make it clear that in Connecticut, health care is a fundamental right,” said Malloy. “We can pass a law that assures that, irrespective of what happens in Washington, birth control for Connecticut women will remain cost free.”
Indeed, given the undermining of the federal health care law, Connecticut will have to go it alone to assure access to care for its citizens. Connecticut Republicans will have to choose if they are on board.
Malloy also railed against the continuing wage gender gap, with women in Connecticut earning on average 82 cents for every dollar that a man makes. He called for salaries based on qualifications, experience and job demands — not an employee’s prior compensation — as one way to close the gap.
But his call for “a bill that helps make sure every person in Connecticut receives equal pay for equal work” raises concerns. The cause is a good one. But in trying to form a regulatory structure to assure it, the state could endanger job creation.
In contrast to President Trump, who avoided the topic in his State of Union Address, Malloy noted his support for “the legions of courageous women across our nation who have come forward to share their stories of sexual harassment.”
Malloy did not provide details, but his call to explore ways to make workplaces safe from sexual harassment, and provide protection for those who speak out and identify it, deserve bipartisan support.
The governor urged the legislature to send a constitutional amendment to the voters that would allow early voting and said his administration would research a vote-by-mail system. This newspaper has long advocated making voting more accessible and criticized Republican efforts, in other states, to put up barriers to voting.
Ironic that a departing governor has set the stage for the state’s 2018 election. It must involve a debate on fiscal policy, but also about our greater ideals in this age of Trump.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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