It was all about the numbers in Connecticut last week – counted in votes and dollars.
For Essex Democrat Norm Needleman and incumbent State Rep. Melissa Ziobron of East Haddam, the numbers of ballots cast in last week’s election is still an unknown quantity – as is the next occupant of the 33rd District State Senate seat – until Monday when a recount is complete.
In all of New England’s representation in Congress, one is the loneliest number — Maine Sen. Susan Collins being the only Republican out of 33 senators and representatives.
For State Sen. George Logan the operative number appears to be 77 – his margin of victory over Democrat Jorge Cabrera after a recount of the 17th State Senate District. And for House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, the recounted margin of victory was 50.
In general, Connecticut Democrats owe a measure of their success in the last election to an estimated one million phone calls and 250,000 home visits made by volunteers.
Another political number is still up undetermined: the votes Nancy Pelosi can muster for election as Speaker of the U.S. House. Newly elected Connecticut Rep. Jahana Hayes will be among those who will have a vote on that issue, and not all of Connecticut’s delegation members are necessarily on Pelosi’s side.
High school graduation numbers, meanwhile, are in some ways deceptive. While the number of grads has risen from 83 to 88 percent over the last seven years, a large portion – anywhere from 17 to 75 percent, depending on the municipality – needed remedial classes when they arrived at college.
Of course the big (and probably most important) numbers are those related to the state budget deficit — numbers that will help define Gov.-elect Ned Lamont’s future. For starters, he said he will not be relying on the state’s rainy day fund to balance the budget, since, in his words, economically speaking, “it’s not a rainy day.”
Lame duck Gov. Dannel Malloy has made a few suggestions on how Lamont can balance the books without raising taxes, but they include using some rainy day money — along with a long list of budget-reduction and cost-shifting measures that aren’t necessarily popular.
Return on state pension investments has been good enough to blunt the impact of surging teacher pension costs, but even the recently improved state revenue flow will not outpace the growth of Connecticut’s debts, officials warned.
On the other hand, a surge in tax receipts has begun to make the cavernous $4.4 billion deficit projection seem considerable easier to bridge — perhaps by as much as half.
Not all the numbers are going in the right direction, however, including the amounts of money spent on inmate health care following the Department of Correction’s assumption of that responsibility from UConn Health.
In Washington, D.C., the effects of the mid-term elections are beginning to come into focus. U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, is feeling his oats as a member of the soon-to-be House majority party and is stepping up his promotion of what some call a dubious plan to tunnel a new highway under the Connecticut River.
At the U.S. Senate, Sen. Richard Blumenthal continued to support Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, this time by threatening to sue over President Donald Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whittaker as Acting Attorney General.