Monday, August 03, 2009

Rennie To Rell: Y’er Out

Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie thinks Gov. Jodi Rell lost the ballgame when she agreed to raise taxes: “When Rell proposed $391 million in tax increases on Thursday, she upended her ability to negotiate effectively with Democrats, who sound chillingly gleeful at the prospect of making Connecticut a more difficult place to be productive. Rell's declaration that she can't find any more spending cuts sets a ceiling on those. Then she established what will likely be the floor on tax increases with her proposal.”

Democrats, owing to their majority in both state houses, can easily raise the roof, and the floor too; give'em an inch and they'll take your back yard.

This is typical Republican gubernatorial strategy.

Rennie writes from the belly of the whale. The Harford Courant, in a recent editorial excoriates the governor for not having proposed tax increases earlier. The budget “crisis” might have been resolved “weeks ago if Gov. M. Jodi Rell had only admitted that tax increases, along with spending cuts and borrowing, had to be part of closing the huge, $8.56 billion budget gap.

“For months, Mrs. Rell stubbornly and unrealistically low-balled deficit projections, allowing her to construct budget proposals with no tax increases for fiscal 2010 and 2011 — and allowing her to hammer Democrats for being taxing fools. That drove the two sides far apart.”

The Courant then goes on to reprove the Democrats for being a wee bit too greedy: “The Democratic-controlled Appropriations and Finance committees also approved a new budget plan Thursday. It calls for $1.8 billion in new taxes and fees — considerably more than the governor asks for but down from the $2.5 billion in additional revenue over two years contained in a Democratic budget recently vetoed by the governor.

“Our sense in general is that Mrs. Rell asks for too little in new taxes to balance the budget and the Democrats still ask too much.”

No doubt the warring parties will reach a compromise that does not unsettle the editors of the Courant, most of whom want to spend the dough on their own pet projects.

Who says the roaring 90's are over?

It’s very important to diagnose the problem correctly. The Courant, and Democrats generally, will not agree that Connecticut has a spending problem. They – especially when Michele Jacklin was the paper’s chief political columnist – have invariably insisted that the state has a revenue problem. There are two parties of opinion here: those who insist that deficits should be discharged by spending decreases; and those who insist that deficits should be discharged through revenue increases.

One party will concentrate its attention and efforts at revenue enhancements, while the other will concentrate on spending cuts.

The proper question to be put to Democrats is: If you have now agreed to revenue enhancements of$1.8 billion, why did you previously demand tax increases of $2.5 billion?

It is a question that the editorial board of the Courant is incapable of putting to the leadership of the Democratic Party, because it will expose the imposture in this little economic morality play that has occurred in the post income tax period between Democrats and opposition governors, two of them Republicans and one an ex-maverick Republican.

When Gov. Rell writes that this is not an ideological battle, she is wrong. It is an ideological battle, and the consequences of that battle have been writ large on a national and international stage.

We can either learn from those experiences or not.

Connecticut citizens grappling the state with bloody fingernails may hope that the leadership of the state Republican Party – minus the governor – knows how to read history.

Whether they do or not, we shall see.
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