Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Tax Plan Is Not A Budget

The banner headline in the Hartford Courant read “Budget: It’s A Deal.” And an accompanying photo showed Governor Dannel Malloy pressing the flesh of various Democrats whose votes were crucial in passing the Democratic Tax Plan.

President of the Senate Don Williams was mildly applauding, an enigmatic Mount Rushmore smile playing upon his face. Sen. Edith Prague, the most obliging senator state union leaders ever bought, was half out of the picture, also applauding. Mr. Malloy was pitched forward, grasping the hand of Rep. Susan Johnson, eager to launch Connecticut forward on a path of prosperity, gratefully accepting plaudits from Democrats in the legislature who had helped him set in budget stone their preferred Tax Plan.

Significantly, the second half of Mr. Malloy’s budget, a Savings Plan that includes the “shared sacrifice” Mr. Malloy has demanded from state workers, is still in process of being negotiated. The cost savings part of Mr. Malloy’s budget has, so far, been written on the waves.

Republicans, a slender minority in the General Assembly, were out of the picture, both figuratively and literally. Their fingerprints will mar neither the Democrat’s Tax Plan nor their rumored Savings Plan.

Earlier in the week, Republicans unveiled their own no-tax-increase budget; among the Democrats shown happily celebrating in the Courant’s front page photo, you could have heard a pin drop.

In past budget negotiations, Republicans, when they were not cooperating with majority Democrats in crafting spending plans, were simply shunted out of the way of Courant photographers and airily dismissed by Courant commentators as irrelevant nuisances, a sprinkling of ashes tossed upon the big spender’s feast. “Laissez les bons temps rouler,” as Marti Gras revelers said in New Orleans before Katrina buried them, “let the good times roll.”

This time around, all the serious negotiations on the budget were conducted in back rooms of the state capitol marked “no Republicans need apply,” because Democrats who now control both the General Assembly and the governor’s office need no longer keep up the pretense that legislative Republicans have a hand in constructing a so called budget that is, for all practical purpose, little more than a tax plan with a promissory note from Connecticut’s fourth branch of government, state unions, attached to it: “The bearer of this note will pay in “shared sacrifice” $4 billion in cost savings to Mr. Malloy, Mr. Williams, Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, Ms. Prague and Ms. Johnson – maybe.”

The times, they are not a’changing, at least not here in Connecticut. Both the the times and the state’s fatally deficient public policy will change when the people of Connecticut, battered on all sides by an omnipresent and omniscient government that robs them of the fruit of their labor to secure for itself the means to wipe dry every tear, begin to take seriously the advice posted on a billboard on route 44 during the last election season: “If you don’t like your congress, change your congressman.”

In the course of his 17 town tour, during which Mr. Malloy presented to the general public his proposed budget – a Tax Plan that included the largest increase in taxes since Gov. Lowell Weicker addressed a similar deficit problem in 1991 and a Spending Plan that included essential promised savings from concessions to be made by state union workers – Mr. Malloy called for “shared sacrifice” from both taxpayers and unions.

Mr. Weicker solved his budget deficit through the imposition of an income tax, the so-called “gas” poured on the spending fire that Mr. Weicker during his campaign for governor promised would not be poured out in the form of an income tax. The Weicker income tax produced ungovernable spending, obscene surpluses that swelled the bottom line of future budgets, and THE FIRE THIS TIME that Mr. Malloy says he hopes to snuff out – with a promissory note from Connecticut’s biggest spenders and their legislative enablers, the celebrants who were applauding Mr. Malloy’s Tax Plan.

The Democrat’s so called “budget” is really a tax plan to which has been attached a promissory note of savings and cost cuts. The real budget is still very much a work in progress.

It is expected that the Malloy-William-Donovan half budget will be passed quickly over media muted objections from Republicans.

And then?

Then General Assembly Democrats, having secured Mr. Malloy’s commitment on a signed Tax Plan, may begin to roll the first Democratic governor since Gov. William O’Neill was washed out of office on a sea of red ink.

Of course, the governor could always maintain an effective negotiating posture with unions and their enablers in the General Assembly by declining to sign the Democrat’s half-budget until he has secured his $4 billion in cost savings from the people whose hands he was pressing in the Courant’s photo; in this way, Mr. Malloy could be certain that the promises he made to Connecticut citizens in no fewer than 17 town meetings have been secured in budget stone before he commits fatally to the pleasures of Mr. Williams, Mr. Donovan, Ms. Prague and Ms. Johnson.

Bets are now on the table that union bought Democrats in the General Assembly will roll Mr. Malloy -- just as they had rolled his two Republican predecessors.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!
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