On Feb 15, one day before the governor’s budget address to the state legislature, the Stamford Advocate carried a column written by Angela Carella titled “Higher The Taxes, Deeper The Hole” that compared Mr. Malloy’s budget strategy with those of two governors facing the same debt problems, Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey:
“Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie say they won't raise taxes, but Malloy this week proposed one of the biggest hikes in Connecticut history.Ms. Carella included in her report some depressing statistics taken from the non-partisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C.
“Malloy made it clear that tax rates still will be lower in Connecticut , which competes with New York and New Jersey for jobs and residents.
“But it's little consolation to taxpayers in Connecticut , which ranks near the top of nearly every list that measures tax rates in the United States .”
Every year the foundation rates states according to the burden of state and local taxes. Connecticut now ranks third in the nation, its residents paying 11.1 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes; New Jersey has the distinction of being first at 11.8 percent, followed by New York at 11.7 percent. The national average is 9.7 percent. Connecticut ranks 7th in the nation in the amount of property taxes the state draws from its residents measured as a percentage of median home value.
Massachusetts, derisively called Taxachussetts in Connecticut ’s halcyon pre-income tax days, has improved its tax ranking. After the Massachusetts legislature set statutory limits on property and personal income taxes, the state’s tax burden ranking dropped from 10 to 26, while Connecticut ’s ranking rose at the same time from 24 to 3.
Connecticut ’s rocket ride upwards in these depressing rankings is what one would expect of a state that had increased spending more than 200 percent at a time when the state legislature in Massachusetts had decided to put a statutory bridle on taxes. In Connecticut, the spending steed, unsaddled and unbridled, continues to run wild in a pasture in which there are no state statutory or constitutional fences, and it will not be long before businesses, in and out of state, begin to notice that, in respect of its contiguous states, Connecticut has fallen far behind in a competition to both attract businesses and fend off poachers from other states that rank higher than Connecticut in the statistics provided by the Tax Foundation. Indeed, the poaching, which began after the Lowell P. Weicker Jr. income tax was written into law, will continue more earnestly after the legislature has written its present budget in stone.
Mr. Malloy’s plan increases spending about 2.4 percent a year, and while it consolidates 81 state agencies down to 57, the reduction in the state workforce of 46,585 next fiscal year is minimal, a slender 159 workers, less than one half of one percent.
“The biggest cut in the Malloy budget [about $2 billion] technically involves a ‘lapse’ or relatively undefined savings still to be achieved,” according to a report in CTMirror. “The governor announced this week that it would come from state employee wage and benefit concessions as well as other savings tied to rank-and-file labor and management.”
The business writer for the Hartford Courant thinks the imagined state worker concessions are a pipe dream, and at least one former governor, John Rowland, is convinced that the proposed budget is what he calls “a set up.” Mr. Rowland has said the Malloy-Donovan-William team will be back, after the first budget crashes on the rocks of reality following the governor’s scheduled Town Meetings, with a revised budget sharply boosting the state’s progressive income tax