In Connecticut last week there was life before, during and after President Donald Trump’s first speech to Congress. And while it left an impression on everyone, it brought little immediate change.
Before the speech, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy left the National Governors Association meeting in Washington pessimistic and critical of Trump’s plans to improve the nation’s health insurance system, but more encouraged by his talk of rebuilding America’s infrastructure.
Local Democrats were not expecting the president to say much they would like, and the all-Democrat Congressional delegation lined up a bunch of guests for the speech who would serve as symbols challenging the chief executive’s national and world view. The party did see a silver lining in the speech, however – it was a great motivator when soliciting financial support.
Even before it was delivered, Trump’s speech was one of several issues raised in special elections to fill vacancies in the State Senate and House. Ultimately, the outcome did nothing to change the balance of power in the evenly split Senate or the closely divided House.
When the president did deliver his speech Tuesday night, Connecticut’s leaders got what they expected – not much they could like. U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, let fly a tweetstorm of criticism, countered by an outpouring of social media vitriol from some Connecticut conservatives.
There was plenty of talk before the speech about the new administration’s problematic relationship with Russia. The president did not mention it during his speech.
Afterward, though, it became the center of another political firestorm when news broke that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had spoken twice to Russia’s ambassador during Trump’s run for office, then apparently lied under oath about it to his fellow senators during his confirmation hearing. Some of Connecticut’s legislators, like many other Democrats, were not satisfied by Session’s announcement that he would recuse himself from investigating possible connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. They called for his resignation Thursday and Friday.
The American Medical Association, meanwhile, had its own concerns about Sessions’ behavior, saying it is “alarmed” that his department might “bend antitrust laws” and allow the proposed Anthem-Cigna merger, now blocked by a federal court, to go forward.
One constant: money problems
One thing that is especially resistant to political influence, it seems, is the state’s constant worry about its finances.
It was manifest several ways this week, including in a bill calling for a constitutional amendment that would prevent cash-strapped state agencies from selling off publicly owned land without a public hearing and two-thirds vote of the legislature. Serious revenue shortfalls among the state’s largest municipalities are also promoting a renewed interest in regionalizing government services.
Connecticut’s current budget woes mean that the state does not have a lot of money to spare to begin with, and Monday the Office of Fiscal Analysis said even the current revenue projections are probably too high. Its finding was a little at odds with that of Comptroller Kevin Lembo, who projected, optimistically, that income tax filings in April will be higher than normal.
State debt is a huge sticking point for a proposal to exempt Social Security income from state income tax. Connecticut is one of only 13 states were Social Security income is not exempt. State Democrats also are considering offering Connecticut college graduates a five-year long tax credit if they remain in the state, estimated cost: $6 million annually.
Under the current budget constraints, a federal court monitor says, the state Department of Children and Families isn’t meeting enough of the needs of the children in its care.
Connecticut might be able to reap some new revenue (or protect a current income source) through the advancement of a third casino project – a joint venture by Foxwoods Resorts Casino and the Mohegan Sun to be sited in East Windsor. But could it withstand a review by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and a legal challenge from competitor MGM Resorts International? Malloy has asked State Attorney General George Jepsen for an opinion on that.