At 12:01 a.m. this morning, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz's shrill and nasal tone reverberated throughout the chamber of the State House of Representatives, in the ceremonial conclusion of the 2007 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly as it adjourned sine die. "God save the State of Connecticut," she concluded. It was the end of one of the worst sessions in history in terms of having nothing significant accomplished, despite a Democratic supermajority that could have theoretically steamrollered the Republican minority and manipulated Governor Rell into capitulation. But that's not what happened. Perhaps God did save us.
Under the inept and aimless leadership of Democrat House Speaker James Amann and Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, 24 Democratic Senators and 107 Democratic House members could not hang together to deliver anything of significance to the voters who had sent them there. The most notable failure was the inability to craft a budget.
We started out with a session virtually guaranteeing a tax increase. Governor Rell proposed one, and the Democrats proposed an even bigger one. House Republicans completely changed the landscape by offering a 'No Tax Increase' budget that utilized the nearly $1 billion in surplus funds this year to keep tax rates where they were, while making important commitments to education, transportation infrastructure, and not cutting one penny from state services or programs. Governor Rell soon fell in line with House Republicans, backing a plan without tax increases.
But Democrats would have none of it. They aimed to squander the surplus, and raise taxes another $1 billion on top of it, while incredulously claiming they were "cutting taxes for 95%" of taxpayers, a claim later demonstrated as false by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.
Then there was the House GOP proposal for a Gas Tax Holiday, eliminating the 25 cent per gallon state gas tax between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Amann blustered with tough talk... it was a "gimmick"... it saved only "pennies"... it "jeopardized our bond rating" for transportation projects. He refused to allow the proposal to even be debated, and then finally, incredulously suggested that lowering gas prices helped terrorists.
Amann then put the gas tax cut in a dummy tax increase proposal destined for a veto, thinking himself clever because House Republicans had to vote against it to prevent the massive tax hikes. Ultimately, Democrats were on the record three times opposing tax relief this summer for motorists.... once in the Finance Committee, and twice in the chamber.
The job remains undone, and a special session for the budget looms. Will Democrats get their way and force through a tax increase?
Then there was energy reform, promised after price locks in the 1998 deregulation bill expired causing rates to skyrocket. Amann promised "Energize Connecticut" would wow us in January. We didn't see anything until June, and what we got will do little in the long run, and nothing in the short term.
The most fascinating story of this session is House Republicans. Reduced to 44 members after the 2006 election, this group could have been demoralized, insignificant and inconsequential. Instead, the re-energized GOP dominated the debate under new leader Larry Cafero and this caucus had greater vision, dedication, drive and effectiveness than it has in a very long time. And the taxpayers of the State of Connecticut have benefited.
Democrats were unable to work together. House Democrats fought Senate Democrats, and each Democratic caucus fought among themselves. There were gross missteps in communication, no leadership and no discipline.
There's still a special session, as well as a regular session in 2008 before we have a chance to elect more Republicans. In the meantime, God save us undeed.