Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy's ineptitude in handling his state's budget crisis ("A National Virus") is not going unnoticed -- especially by those who previously held his job. In a phone conversation yesterday, former Connecticut governor John G. Rowland (1995-2004) argued that Malloy is a "pathological liar" who cribs buzzwords from the Obama administration to deflect from his disastrous job performance.
And it has been disastrous. Since the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), which represents all of Connecticut's 15 public-sector unions, shot down Malloy's proposed labor agreement -- which promised four years with no layoffs but also asked for $2 billion in concessions and givebacks -- Malloy has been threatening to lay off anywhere from 4,500 to 7,500 state workers. And he's blaming the crisis on Rowland.
In 1997, Rowland signed a controversial 20-year benefits deal with SEBAC that will run through 2017. Malloy calls that deal "unsustainable" and claims that it rendered major concessions -- like the kind Connecticut now needs -- permanently unpalatable to SEBAC.
"He's trying to make me the scapegoat, but he actually wanted to extend that deal another five years through 2022" Rowland says. "He went from supporting an extension of the deal, to blaming it for all of the state's problems. He's all over the place."
According to Rowland, Malloy essentially locked himself in a back room for several months with labor attorney Dan Livingston and hacked out a union proposal without consulting union heads or even sending out any "weather balloons" to test its viability. By the time he emerged from his chrysalis asking for $2 billion in concessions (a "farce" of a request, according to Rowland) the damage had been done -- unions felt jilted and deliberately uninformed, and less than the neccessary 80 percent of SEBAC members voted to accept Malloy's terms.
"On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Malloy is pro-business" gripes Rowland, "and then on Tuesday and Thursday he's signing new government mandates, like the sick-day compensation bill that will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars a year. As governor, your first priority in handling the economy should be to eliminate the fear of the unknown. With Malloy, you never know what he's going to do next."
That Malloy can sign costly new reforms while simultaneously raising taxes and asking for unprecedented union concessions is the kind of mixed message for which he has become well known, and which, Rowland believes, will continue to drive business from Connecticut.
"We're now losing business to places we've never lost to before, like Cambridge, Massachussetts and White Plains, New York" says Rowland, "And with Malloy in office, we're going to keep losing to nearby areas. He has devastated the economic morale of the state."
A blue-chip prospect in the national Republican Party before resigning amid corruption scandals in 2004, Rowland now hosts a mid-afternoon talk radio program in Connecticut, on which he rails against Malloy with no evident regard for his own political future (he flatly denied Hartford Courant rumors that he's running for state GOP Chair.) "We have 50,000 watts and listeners across the state" Rowland says proudly, "I did battle with unions for ten years as governor. Well, this is how I'm doing battle now."