The ever-sharp Gabriel Malor calls attention to a fascinating feature on page one of today's New York Times. A pair of side-by-side stories juxtaposes the legislative effects of one-party rule in two states: Wisconsin and Connecticut. Let's personalize this battle of competing governing philosophies: In which state would you prefer to reside?
The gears of government tend to grind slowly. But in Wisconsin lately they are racing at turbocharged speed. In just the last few weeks, Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, has signed legislation to require voters to show photo identification cards at the polls and to deregulate elements of the telecommunications industry. And the Republican-dominated Legislature is now in the midst of advancing provisions to expand school vouchers, to allow people to carry concealed weapons, to cut financing for Planned Parenthood and to bar illegal immigrants from paying in-state tuition at Wisconsin’s universities.
In only his first weeks in office, Mr. Walker pushed to remake the state’s Department of Commerce into a public-private hybrid, to limit lawsuits against businesses, to give two-year corporate tax breaks to companies that move to Wisconsin and to give tax credits to companies for each job they create. By February, he announced a “budget repair bill,” which, he said, would help solve a budget shortfall, in part by limiting collective bargaining rights for most public employees in Wisconsin.
In a year when conservative politics have dominated even traditionally Democratic states like New Jersey and New York, Connecticut is closing out its most activist, liberal legislative session in memory.
Lawmakers over the last several weeks have enacted the largest tax increase in Connecticut history and approved the nation’s first law to mandate paid sick leave for some workers. They voted to extend protections for transgender people, to charge in-state college tuition rates to illegal immigrants, to extend an early-release program for prisoners and to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
On finances, the Legislature adopted a $40.1 billion budget that relies on $1.4 billion in tax increases, about $800 million in cuts and a projected $1.6 billion in union concessions on pay and benefits over two years. The concessions are subject to ratification by state employee unions by June 24.
Wisconsin Democrats have responded to Gov. Walker's aggressive conservative agenda by vowing to recall as many as six Republican state senators. Connecticut Republicans may be wishing they'd instituted their own voter ID law prior to November's sketchy gubernatorial election.