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Ryan & Fisher: Could Connecticut be the next Detroit?

ryan-and-fisher-300x180Every other week, John J. Ryan, a former Republican state representative, and Joshua Fisher, former Darien Times editor, share their back-and-forth about news going on around the state, among other items of interest.

Ryan: Summer is half over already, and I am afraid that your observation last time was quite correct: It’s much more fun to talk baseball and pennant races.

Fisher: Unfortunately all too true, because in baseball it’s never over until the last out. But in Connecticut politics it often seems over before it even begins — unless of course you have a cushy state government job.

And as you always say, John, don’t take our word for it, look it up. The many news items noted and linked here shed more light on the sad situation that is the Nutmeg State’s horrible financial shape. Connecticut’s government thrives at two things: Incompetence and creating government jobs. Both of these things are what keep your taxes up and state bureaucracy — and its inefficiency — growing.

Isn’t it odd that no one ever disproves those many lists that have our once fine state at the top of taxation and the bottom of economic development and business-friendliness? Maybe this is why Gov. Malloy has never had an approval rating of 50% or higher.

Ryan: There were more such lists last week, including CNBC’s “Top States for Business 2013” (cnbc.com) (Connecticut finished 45th).

But I have some positive news for you, see “‘Improving’ life in Connecticut in 327 new ways” (TheDay.com, July 21). That number, 327, is how many new bills Gov. Malloy signed into law this year. Many of those new laws create new state task forces to come up with more laws.

Fisher: This means our politicians can promise a lot, study issues and say, “We are working on it.” But where are the results? Such as job creation?

Ryan: What’s that? News on job creation? We aim to please. See “Food stamp rolls increase faster than jobs” (JournalInquirer.com, July 20).

Or maybe news about one of the state’s biggest and best known employers: “Pratt Employees Take Buyouts; Layoffs Still Necessary” (courant.com, July 15).

Fisher: We know we have erudite readers, who can find the data on their own that any “job creation” in Connecticut has been at the low-end of the pay scale, and in post-Sandy repair businesses? That, of course, won’t stop politicians from citing it. What they might not mention is Connecticut’s 8.1% unemployment rate (as of last Thursday, July 18) is tied for 14th highest in the nation. You can look it up at the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s website, bls.gov.

Ryan: You must be one of those “gloom and doom” media guys. There is no end of news (remember readers, when you visit this column online you get many links to the stories and statistics we mention; and feel free to find much more news about our state on your own) about how our government is knocking itself out trying to help the private sector out. Earlier this month, the governor vetoed a bill that could have rescued the financially struggling Waterbury Hospital. See “Malloy sides with unions, vetoes bill key to Waterbury Hospital deal” (CTMirror.org, July 11).

Fisher: But who are we to think of questioning our state government’s intentions, especially in also helping out Connecticut’s big cities, which continue to cost us more and more while they get worse and worse?

Ryan: That’s better. We both know, in our hearts, that our readers appreciate that their tax dollars are hard at work in Connecticut. For example the state is paying more than $30 million for a parking garage worth $10 million that is rarely more than 30% full. See: “Parking Garage Bailout?” (NBCConnecticut.com, July 9).

Remember, our state government must certainly closely monitor where those hundreds and hundreds of millions that annually are given to those “big cities” go and how they are spent. See “Ex-Aide’s Car Issue Exemplifies City Hall’s Culture Of Sloppiness” (courant.com, July 9), which details how the former Hartford mayor’s chief of staff not only got a city SUV as part of his six-figure job, but he kept it for two weeks after he left the job.

Fisher: What might worry those politicians who take advantage of broken system almost as much as being caught? Maybe voters reading the many news items on the Detroit bankruptcy and comparing the past few years in Michigan to what’s been happening in Connecticut.

Ryan: You can’t possibly mean things like delaying scheduled debt payments, borrowing hundreds and hundreds of millions for regular operating expenses, rearranging Medicare spending, wiping money from segregated funds (see gas tax, banking fund, Tobacco Trust Fund and others) to spend it, extending existing taxes and surtaxes that were scheduled to sunset, and…

Fisher: Whoa! Slow down, John. This is starting to get constructive. Every one of those items, and much more, are fiscal components of our latest state budget, which the Democrats passed and the governor signed just last month.

Ryan: Every detail of which, if readers care to look, is available online to them.

By the way, I will try not to mention my latest visit to New York City (where crime has dropped precipitously) for the New York Philharmonic, or my next jaunt to Pittsburgh (a city undergoing an amazing urban and economic revitalization) this fall. Readers might get the idea we are trying to hint at things that Connecticut could do, if the politicians wanted to do them.

John J. Ryan is of counsel to the Fairfield County law firm Russo & Assoc., and served 14 years as Darien and Rowayton’s state representative — and has been writing this column for Hersam Acorn even longer. Joshua Fisher, was the Darien Times editor for seven years, has been an editor with Hersam Acorn Newspapers since 2003.

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