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Wasted money and closed voting records

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has proclaimed that state government faces a state budget crisis and a transportation infrastructure crisis.

Yet a week ago the state Bond Commission, with the governor's endorsement, approved borrowing $10 million to help develop a soccer stadium in Hartford in the hope of attracting a professional soccer team. Simultaneously, the governor refused to place on the commission's agenda $30 million in borrowing planned to finance municipal road repair.

The governor also awarded $6 million in state grants to 23 towns for the purchase of open space, and the Hartford Courant tabulated the cost of the University of Connecticut's severance payments to its most recently fired football coach and his staff: more than $5 million. As usual, nobody in authority in state government, from the governor on down, questioned the expense. Under this governor UConn can do whatever it wants.

If Connecticut has a professional soccer crisis and a crisis of too many businesses and people moving into the state and devouring open space, nobody has noticed. Indeed, for years now no business of any size has moved into or expanded here without receiving a big bribe from state government, so open space is in little danger.

The Malloy administration seems intent on going out in a blaze of incoherence.

Why elect anyone?

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, recently offered his solution for the transportation infrastructure problem: Take it out of the democratic process and create an unelected agency to decide transportation matters, letting the General Assembly cancel the agency's decisions by a two-thirds vote.

This seems like it would impose on transportation issues the binding arbitration Connecticut has imposed on state and municipal government employee contract negotiations. The result there has been disastrous, removing the biggest costs of state and local government from the ordinary democratic process, rendering them uncontrollable.

But if both government's labor and transportation costs are to be beyond supervision by elected officials, why stop there? Why not create another unelected agency to handle tax policy, too?

Then legislators could concentrate on appropriating money for the wonderful things Governor Malloy described as "Connecticut fairness" in his recent State of the State address and the wonderful things in the "values agenda" recently announced by Democratic legislative leaders, and the tax agency would relieve them of having to pay for it all.

If people wanted elected officials who answer for public policy, they could always move out of state -- as many are already doing.

Keep voter rolls public

Voter registration data is crucial to the integrity of elections. You can't tell if elections are honest if you can't tell who voted. But Secretary of the State Denise Merrill wants to conceal much of this data in the name of voter privacy.

Under Merrill's proposal, the birthdates of voters -- a key identifier now public -- would be concealed and registration data would be denied to commercial enterprises while released to political committees, candidates, and journalists. But politics and journalism are rights, not professions, and anyone can be a politician or a journalist at any time, so such distinctions won't hold.

Only citizens are eligible to vote. But state government and municipal governments are already issuing identification documents to illegal immigrants, and Connecticut fails to require proof of citizenship for voter registration. So the integrity of elections requires voter registration data to remain open.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.




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