Thursday, February 15, 2007

When Pigs Fly

Despite chief gubernatorial aide Lisa Moody’s attempt to put some rouge and lipstick on the thing, a pig is a pig is a pig.

When Gov. Jodi Rell last week astonished everyone, including wary Democrats and shell shocked Republicans, by agreeing to raise the income tax to purchase the affections of Connecticut powerful education lobby, she threw a Gibraltar into a small pond, and the ripples continue to splash on the shore.

Governor Rowland’s former chief of staff Dean Pagani said Rell dropped a bomb on the Capitol and then waltzed off stage.

Moody said no, the governor intends to “work the issue.” Tom D’Amore, last seen advising Ned Lamont’s failed campaign, said, “It's pretty substantial what she is doing. It's going to take time to educate folks. I don't think there is any real ... necessity to be jumping on it overnight. You can let it sink in and seek what you are getting in feedback from folks.”

Here’s some feedback: Connecticut Republicans are not anxious to toss on the ash bin of history their hard earned reputation for responsible spending. D’Amore, it should be recalled, was appointed Republican Party Chairman by former senator and governor Lowell Weicker and a compliant Republican State Central Committee. At the time of his appointment, D’Amore crowed that he had not become party chairman to preside over the destruction of the Republican Party. This was a few years before Weicker, who bolted the party to run as governor, hinted at his opposition to an income tax by saying in his campaign that instituting such a tax would be like “pouring gas on a fire.”

Burn, baby burn.

In the post-income tax period, Connecticut has more than doubled its budget -- this within the space of only three governors, two Republicans and “No man but yours” Weicker. When bonding is tossed into the mix, the state has more than tripled its budget since those halcyon days of yore when Weicker sort of promised to veto an income tax and D’Amore sort of promised not to preside over the destruction of the Republican Party.

So, how are we doing?

Lisa Moody thinks everything is swell. Some people, not all of them conservatives, think that Rell’s great spending leap forward at a time when businesses are fleeing the state is imprudent, to say the least. Weicker’s last word on the budget was his shock and awe statement: “Where did all the money go?”

Where did the Republican Party go?

A month ago, some Republicans supposed that Jodi Rell was the Republican Party. Sure, the party had shriveled to nothing. Sure none of the post income tax governors, two and a half Republicans, had coattails – not Weicker, not Rowland, not Rell. But one of the two Republicans, Rowland, claimed to be a firewall that would prevent excessive spending, and the other, Rell, luxuriated in his shadow as Lieutenant Governor. Her silence on the subject of raising taxes during her recent campaign led many of her supporters to believe that, at least in this respect, she would be a formidable firewall.

Where did Jodi Rell go?

Pretty much over the fence.

“The governor's credibility, having been earned painstakingly after the resignation of her corrupt predecessor, began to crumble,” wrote Chris Powell of the Journal Inquirer. “Like her predecessor once removed, Lowell P. Weicker Jr., father of the state income tax, Rell quickly capitulated to the government class without a fight.”

So here we are: All of the annoying inconveniences that caused many opinion makers to back an income tax – budgets in the red, the inability of the sales tax to generate sufficient funds, the revenue volatility caused by the absence of an income tax, the niggling little taxes that were nibbling taxpayers to death – are back with a vengeance. The budget is growing by leaps and bounds, businesses are fleeing the state, and students Rell intends to pamper with cradle to grave schooling will also leave the state – in search of jobs they cannot find in Connecticut.

Here we are again, back at square one But don’t worry, everything’s swell.

Rell has little support outside the tight circle of friends and advisors who helped her to set her course, and Republicans concerned about their party cannot afford to allow themselves to be absorbed into a sink hole of spendthrift notions that are the hallmark of the Democrat Party. Unlike D’Amore and his playmate Weicker, they do not want to preside over the destruction of their party.
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