Thursday, May 31, 2007

Let The Class Warfare Begin

President Pro Tem of the state Senate Don Williams probably should have had a chat with Speaker of the House Jim Amann sometime earlier in the great budget battle of 2007.

First, Williams incorrectly counted Democrat votes in the senate. His tax plan, a scheme to force rich towns to pay more for state services while receiving less in services, fell short of the number of votes he needed to pass the plan over a gubernatorial veto. Then Williams decided, apparently without conferring with Amann, to permit the senate to vote on the measure anyway. Amann was reported to have been surprised at the vote, which passed by the narrowest of margins, a single vote cast by Senator Edward Meyer, who decided at the last moment to put his misgivings behind him and trust that Williams was not selling him a pig in a poke.

The House refused to consider Williams’ measure, preferring its own bill, which contained a tax cut absent from the senate plan. The "tax cut," a temporary reduction in the gas tax for the summer, is widely regarded by critics as little more than a Democrat campaign stuffer.

After all the deliberations and backroom pavalering, the Williams/Amann bill was vetoed by Rell as promised. Immediately, Democrats began to pound on their campaign tocsins.

Rell, the Democrats gleefully pointed out, had now gone on record, as one report put it, as having been “opposed to a tax package that would cut taxes for a majority of taxpayers, while raising the income tax on households earning more than $272,000 annually.”

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney said, "This is a very important issue of accountability and a statement of principle.”

When Republicans pointed out that a review by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis showed that only 58% rather than 95% of Connecticut taxpayers would receive an income tax cut under the Democrat plan, Jim Amann remarked that he was "Glad to see the Republicans coming around. They finally admit that our tax package will give the majority of taxpayers a tax cut." And Williams noted, "The basic point here is Republicans are quibbling with Democrats over how many people under our plan get tax cuts," Williams said. "Under their plan, no one gets a tax cut.

Democrat leaders have six days to negotiate with the governor, and they are understandably anxious.

Republicans, and some Democrats who represent districts that will be paying more in taxes under the Williams/Amann plan while receiving less in services, are asking themselves, “Is this anyway to run a legislature?”

The charitable view is that Williams and Amann don’t want the bill to pass; they just want to use it as a campaign club to gain more seats in the legislature. Even though Democrats presently have enough votes in the legislature to override a gubernatorial veto, more votes would be better. And should Democrats seize the gubernatorial slot in the next election, such cumbersome votes as we have seen in the senate and House would be settled in quiet caucuses out of view of the public, the way it’s traditionally done in efficient one party states.

Behind all the campaign white noise lies the brutal, simple truth. Both Republicans and Democrats are raising spending beyond the rate of inflation, and they are doing this when the treasury is plush with surpluses. On the Democrat side, spending and taxes will increase about 10%. The inescapable message this sends to taxpayers is that costs will not be trimmed during economic good times or bad times. Therefore, spending will increase at all times by whatever amount the Democrat leadership considers “fair.”
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