Monday, February 24, 2014

It Takes A Village (Of Idiots) To Make A City

H&R Block, the guys that help bewildered taxpayers send their “fair share” in tax receipts to federal and state governments, reported that Bridgeport, Connecticut was the highest taxed city in the country, and news outlets across the country ran with the item.

This brought out the beast in Bridgeport Mayor Bill Fitch, who issued a carefully calibrated response that appeared, among other places, in Lennie Grimaldi’s “Only in Bridgeport” blog.

The blockheads at Block simply got their figures wrong, said Mr. Finch. The Block study relied on an incorrect income-to-home valuation: “This study is based on a hypothetical family of three making $50,000 owning a home valued at $369,609.” However, “Median income of a Bridgeport resident is $38,000. The average home is valued at $170,000.”

While taxes in Bridgeport are high, Mr. Fitch announced, they are NOT the highest in the nation.

And even if one assumes the computations in the study are fair, there are mitigating circumstances: “I don’t dispute that our residents pay a lot of taxes–the state of Connecticut bases its revenues on an over reliance on property taxes, making it one of the more highly taxed states in the U.S. For cities like Bridgeport, which is one of the smallest municipalities in the country and the hub of nonprofit services such as hospitals, colleges, courts and jails, it means that we depend on state reimbursements to make up for lost revenues.”

The same mitigating circumstances apply to other large one-party cities in the state. Connecticut’s Capitol City, Hartford, is also small in area and, like Bridgeport, it is located in “one of the more highly taxed states in the U.S.” That would be Connecticut, which now may be accurately described as a one-party state. Democrats in Connecticut now control the governor’s office, both chambers of the General Assembly, all the state’s constitutional offices and Connecticut’s entire U.S. Congressional delegation. Sourpuss conservatives sometimes allege that Democrats also unduly influence Connecticut’s media and courts; such is the gravitational pull of the Democratic Party hegemon.

If Bridgeport were located in, say, South Carolina rather than high tax Connecticut, the tax burden falling on the shoulders of Bridgeportites would be considerably reduced. Mr. Fitch stopped short of recommending that Bridgeport should be moved to the Carolinas, or that its jails and nonprofit services such as hospitals, colleges and courts should be re-located to Greenwich, Connecticut. But there is more than a hint in Mr. Finch’s heartfelt plea that the state, one of the highest taxed states in the nation, should be a little more generous in sending tax relief to tax battered Bridgeport. Democrats in the Capitol city of Hartford generally make the same case: Our tax needs are increasing at the same time that our tax resources are diminishing.

Is there any connection between these diminishing tax resources and the tax burden in Bridgeport or other large Democrat dominated cities in Connecticut? If so, Mr. Fitch breathes not a word of it in his ardent defense of the ruling Democratic Party in his city. Could it be – is it possible? – that reductions in spending might provide the city of Bridgeport with tax resources that can no longer be drawn from the city’s overburdened taxpayers? If your taxes remain constant but you spend less, do you not realize an increase in disposable tax receipts? That is how people outside the political bubble save money, which they may then use to buy necessities – and only necessities: We are, after all, living in one of the top ten highest taxed states in the nation; why quibble over first place?

If there is a connection in Bridgeport and throughout Connecticut between spending and infinitely expanding budgets, the ruling party in the state is keeping that connection hidden behind mountains of smarmy equivocations.

Has Bridgeport at long last reached the end of its tax receipts rope? Not to worry. The Democratic mayors of cash strapped cities can always urge the one-party Democratic state, also cash strapped, to pay cities for their inability to collect taxes from hospitals and social service agencies. No need to put a break on spending. Happy times are just around the corner. One of the chief political benefits of the unitary city and state is that its administrators need never fear correction from an aroused citizenry determined to vote into office an alternative political party that, for all practical purposes, is invisible.
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