Friday, September 04, 2009

Courant OKs Bad Budget

With some reservations, the Harford Courant, a paper whose publisher just apologized for his reporters who plagiarized from other papers, is okay with the state budget. The Courant calls the plagiarists “aggregators.”

In an editorial, the Courant asserts that Rell was “wise” to sign the tax swollen document, although the paper considers it a deficient budget:

“Gov. M. Jodi Rell was wise Tuesday in bringing to an end her long fight with legislative Democrats by holding her nose and letting their latest budget bill pass into law without her signature. She doesn't like the budget but she was right in concluding it isn't worth it to prolong the stalemate.

“In truth, it isn't a very good budget. There is far too much borrowing to make it balance and too much spending. But Connecticut needs a state budget.”

The governor, the editorial affirms, showed “admirable flexibility” by agreeing to the Democrats “’millionaire tax’ to raise revenue.”

The Democrats “partly” accepted the governor’s reduction of the of the estate tax, according to the editorial, and adopted her reduction in the state sales tax, “although they [leaders in the Democrat dominated legislature] added a provision that the sales tax cut would be repealed if revenues dropped more than 1 percent from projections.”

In other words, the governor adopted a “millionaire’s tax” which carried no provision that, in the event the tax produced a projected overage of 1%, it would be repealed; and she accepted a caveat on a reduction in the sales tax that, should revenues from the tax drop more than 1% in projections, the tax cut would be repealed.

These are revenues figures that would be “projected” by the Democrat controlled legislature’s non-partisan fiscal office, which recently highballed the state’s deficit projection, as reported by Courant reporter Chris Keating.

The Courant’s editorial board probably could use a good aggregator here -- because they seem to regard all this as “admirably flexible.” Some Republicans, no doubt, would consider it contortionism beyond the bounds of reason. But such opinions hold no sway among the paper’s editorial board members, whose sermonetts are mostly directed to a diminishing pool of liberal readers.

The Courant offers some serious objections to the “deal” struck between the governor and a Democratic leadership that has made intimidation into an art form, the most important of which are:

• “This budget doesn't fundamentally restructure state government to save money, as is needed. When the governor made her deal with the state employees unions that promised no layoffs for two years in exchange for contract concessions that would save about $600 million, hopes for meaningful restructuring flew out the window.”

• “The budget is relying too much on too few people — joint filers making more than $1 million and single filers making more than $500,000 — in raising additional revenue to balance the budget. Connecticut does not want to reach the point where high-earner flight to Florida or other non-income-tax states becomes more than anecdotal.”

The Courant now believes, “Future tax increases — if there need to be any — should be broad-based.”

Better late than never.

These are serious objections not taken seriously by the Courant’s editorial board. The paper fairly gasps at them in its editorial and then commends Rell for winking at them by permitting the budget to pass without her signature rather than vetoing it and insisting on less "flexible" measures.

One may question the paper’s logic and motives here. The Courant’s logic suggests the budget should have been rejected. But it is unwilling to reprove the governor for having accepted it. Only one conclusion is possible: It was political interests rather than right reason that has steered the Courant into this cul de sac. It is the plainest nonsense to say that a budget is bad, for reasons stated by the paper, but that it should be adopted by a governor who had opposed it for the right reasons because – the state needs a bad budget.
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