In a recently published opinion piece, Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, made a clever argument in support of an absurd premise — that we don’t have one-party rule in Connecticut.
The senator cites me as evidence, noting that despite my well-established fiscal conservatism, I voted with the legislative majority on most bills. All that proves is how deceptive statistics can be.
Because of the vast size and complexity of state government, the legislature must vote on hundreds of proposals each session which deal with the function of the bureaucracy, adjustments to our myriad laws and regulations, changes necessitated by federal law, and other technical matters.
There is nothing partisan or ideological about such votes: they are attempts to make government as constituted work better, and reasonable people of good faith generally agree on such matters. I often feel these alterations should not rise to the level of statutes, but if the legislature were to abandon our oversight, our towns and our citizens would be at the mercy of unelected bureaucrats.
Far more important than the hundreds of votes fine-tuning the function of state government are the dozens of votes which determine the direction of state government. On these, the philosophical divide is profound.
Take the state budget. Despite a stagnant economy and looming deficits, Gov. Dannel Malloy and his Democratic legislative majority crafted and enacted a budget in 2011 which increased state spending and imposed the largest tax increase in our history. Not a single Republican legislator voted for this tax-and-spend budget, which set the administration’s fiscal course: it was passed solely with Democratic votes and signed by a Democratic governor.
Spending and taxes determine the size and scope of government, the underlying question which divides the parties. Democrats retain their faith in big government to better our lives by spending our money for us, by mandating the behavior of our towns and businesses, and by limiting our personal freedom. Republicans believe government is already too large, too inefficient, and too intrusive. We want the cost of state government reduced, and its power returned to our communities and to ourselves as citizens.
Other issues which made clear the division between the parties include construction of the New Britain to Hartford Busway — which also received not a single Republican vote — repeal of the death penalty, issuance of driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, the early release of violent felons, and the forced unionization of family day-care providers.
Complete Democratic dominance of the legislature has also meant that Republican initiatives to restore local control of education, to repeal costly mandates on our towns, and to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses have not even received a public hearing, let alone a vote on the floor.
Not once in the last 40 years has the Republican Party achieved the level of control currently exercised by Democrats, who hold the governorship and both chambers of the legislature. The alarming growth of state government over that period — and the catastrophic decline of industry, especially in our big cities — is a direct consequence of an unchecked liberal agenda, which has only gained momentum over time.
I welcome the chance to cooperate with my Democratic colleagues when I can, and I like and respect many of them on a personal level. I do not doubt that they wish the best for our state just as sincerely as I do. Yet they have taken us down a path destructive to the prosperity of our families, the cohesion of our communities, the effectiveness of our schools, the safety of our streets, and of our own rights and responsibilities as citizens.
Republicans stand for a leaner and less intrusive government that lives within its means, respects its Constitutional limits, allows private enterprise to thrive, and defends personal liberty. When we proclaim those principles forthrightly, the people are with us — my own electoral success demonstrates that.
It is in the interest of the Democratic Party to blur distinctions, and Sen. Bye does her best at it. It’s up to us as Republicans to make clear where we stand, in order to secure victory as a party and to forge a new way forward for our state.
State Sen. Joe Markley serves the 16th Senate District, which includes Cheshire, Prospect, Southington, Wolcott and Waterbury.