Friday, February 07, 2014

Opening Day At The Tax And Spend Factory



The opening day of Connecticut’s new tax and spend season had been postponed because of a snow storm. But the storm was neither long enough nor the snow deep enough to prevent legislators from making their appointed rounds.

Governor Dannel Malloy, the author of the largest tax increase in Connecticut’s history, was characteristically optimistic – utopians usually are  – and his opening day speech, a spare 43- minutes, was interrupted by the General Assembly members assembled more than 50 times.

Mr. Malloy’s speech was larded with applause lines such as these:

Together we’ve turned a $3.6 billion deficit into a $500 million surplus (unfortunately, the General Assembly is looking forward to future deficits)…

we should continue to reduce our long-term debt by making an extra $100 million payment toward state pension obligations. The return on that investment will mean a $430 million reduction in our long-term debt…

we should give something back to Connecticut taxpayers, (a $55 slice of the temporary budget surplus) because if the people of Connecticut are going to share in the sacrifice during tough times, (and they did, coughing up $1.8 billion in new taxes) they should also share in the recovery as things begin to turn around…

we can issue a targeted refund to Connecticut taxpayers to return to them some of the sales and gas taxes they’ve paid. A refund of $110 for families and $55 for individuals will help offset the payments they’ve made toward those taxes… (Mr. Malloy did not provide in his speech a number indicating the amount of the tax payments they had made after Mr. Malloy became governor, but the amount, $1.8 billion, dwarfs the temporary targeted refund)…

by giving money back to people who will spend it on things they need, we’re also injecting $155 million directly into our state's economy. Economists at the University of Connecticut predict that this refund could result in 1,200 new jobs in Connecticut this year…

[In the future] whenever Connecticut has the means, (not, according to figures supplied by Comptroller Kevin Lembo, in the near future) we do three things: we shore up our savings, we reduce our debt, and we give back to taxpayers…

our teachers’ pension payments are taxed differently than social security – which teachers can’t participate in. Let’s treat teachers’ pensions more like social security by exempting part of those payments from the state income tax (the exemption will be permanent, not temporary, and certainly not contingent upon the fabled Connecticut recovery)…

the tax cuts in my proposed budget amount to more than $280 million over the next two years, and more than $440 million when you include the tax refund...

let’s commit Connecticut to achieving universal pre-kindergarten…

It will be a long and thoughtful process, but if you believe as I do that education is the civil rights issue of our time, then I ask you to join me today in taking the first steps toward making sure every child has access to a pre-k experience…

let’s help make college a little more affordable. 

We can do it with a simple promise to Connecticut parents: beginning this year, for every child born or adopted in Connecticut, the state will help them start a tax-free college savings account and put a $100 investment into it for them…

And if parents save another $150 dollars in the first four years, we’ll match that for a total state investment of $250 dollars…

I look forward to working with our great treasurer Denise Nappier to create this “CHET   Baby   Scholars” program…

The “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative will provide an initial investment of more than $134 million to help bring all 17 campuses into a single, student-centered, technology rich-system...

When a student fails to graduate from college it’s a lost opportunity for the student…

 Here’s what we can do.

If you're a student who began a degree program but have been out of school for more than 18 months, Connecticut will offer one free course for each course you take at a public college – and up to three free courses in total – if you come back and matriculate.

This "Go Back to Get Ahead" program will run for a limited amount of time…

Teddy Roosevelt said a century ago that it’s not the critic who counts, but those who strive to do great things…

Mark Twain called Connecticut “the land of steady habits,” and through our long and storied history, many of those habits have driven us to accomplish great things. Our courage helped found this country, and our ingenuity helped spur the industrial revolution…

We hear plenty of critics now. Even as sunshine begins to break through the clouds, there are some intent on hoping for thunderstorms…

We should not listen. Connecticut is moving forward

And now, during this session, those critics will say that for one reason or another that we can’t increase the minimum wage, that we can’t expand access to early childhood education, that we can’t find ways to make college more affordable.

They’ll say the time isn’t right, or that Connecticut just can’t afford to do it.

I say they’re wrong. Connecticut must move forward, because the people of our state have sacrificed, and now they deserve to share (if only temporarily and contingently) in our emerging recovery... (It took Connecticut 10 years to recover the jobs lost during the state’s last, softer recession, following the Weicker income tax increases. This recovery will be longer and tougher, following the Malloy tax increases).

The question before us is how should we define ourselves: by our setbacks, or by our successes?...

This session, let this be our answer:

That together we will have the courage to continue pushing for bold, positive change;

The compassion to ensure that everyone can share in Connecticut’s recovery;

And the faith to believe that Connecticut’s best days are still ahead.

Thank you. May God bless you, may God bless the United States of America, and may God bless the great State of Connecticut.


There was one laugh line in Mr. Malloy’s speech: “I recognize everything I’ve laid out today is a lot to tackle in a short session. But working together, we can get it done.”


Mr. Malloy is not known for having a prominent funny bone. This line provoked chuckles because the legislators assembled before him were sensible that his speech was an opening to the “short legislative session.” No doubt some Republicans -- never part of Mr. Malloy's "we" -- were thinking, “Well, the executive office proposes and the legislative office disposes.” Considering the short legislative season, traditionally devoted to smoothing over goofs and unintended consequences in the state budget, Mr. Malloy’s ambitions may have seemed to non-utopians in the audience a trifle… well, ambitious.

But, then again, opening speeches during a new legislative session are to be taken, as Mark Twain says, “with a ton of salt.” Mr. Malloy's address was taken by some in the audience as call to campaign arms rather than a serious spasm of legislative marching orders. As a campaign document, the Malloy address makes good progressive sense. There were some few things it for all the usual Democratic Party interest groups; for instance, numerous unions in the service, retail and hospitality businesses link their base-line wages to the minimum wage and will benefit monetarily from any minimum wage increase. Real benefits to the taxpayers and hard pressed businesses in the state -- such as permanent income tax cuts, permanent and immediate reductions in regulations and across the board business tax cuts, rather than selective, crony capitalist measures designed to inflate the power of puffed up politicians -- were kept at a minimum. 
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