Friday, March 21, 2014

Connecticut’s Media-Progressive Complex: Or -- It’s The Spending, Not The Taxes, Stupid

The progressive wing of the Democratic Party, now in the ascendency in Connecticut, has been trying to “reform” the tax system ever since it was last reformed in 1991 by then Governor Lowell Weicker, the father of Connecticut’s income tax.

In the course of its story, CTMirror quotes William Cibes, identified as “state budget director under Weicker and also co-chairman of the finance committee in 1989-90,” on property taxes. Mr. Cibes recently testified before the General Assembly’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, which in the next few weeks will endorse a measure “that could launch a top-to-bottom analysis of how Connecticut taps taxpayers’ wallets.” Mr. Cibes testified that “high property taxes are a major reason why Connecticut’s tax system is broken. So property tax relief would lessen the economic burden on businesses, municipalities and individuals… Property taxes are relatively stable. But when a state relies excessively on property taxes to fund important services like education, infrastructure and public safety, businesses and individuals are punished.”

Mr. Cibes’ statement was remarkably similar to an earlier Op-Ed piece printed in CTMirror written by John A. Elsesser, the town manager of Coventry: “The good thing about property taxes is that they are relatively stable. As part of an overall revenue structure, which is relatively balanced among taxes on property, sales and income, they make sense. But when a state relies excessively on local property taxes to fund governmental services, as does Connecticut, it’s reasonable to begin working to fix what House Speaker Brendan Sharkey has termed a ‘broken’ tax system.”

Mr. Cibes and Mr. Weicker were both prime movers in the effort to adopt an income tax. While campaigning for governor, former Republican U.S. Senator Weicker, running within a party of his own making, had eschewed an income tax as a means of liquidating a Democratic generated billion dollar deficit. Adopting an income tax, gubernatorial campaigner Weicker said, would be “like pouring gasoline on a fire.” Mr. Cibes had run for governor on an income tax platform, but he and his platform were decisively rejected at the time by 65% of Democrats.

While Connecticut’s income tax was muscled through the General Assembly by Governor Weicker, the income tax idea and its implementation originated with Mr. Cibes, whom Mr. Weicker tapped to head the state’s Office of Policy Management. Declining to run for a second term as governor, a grateful Weicker, before leaving office, created a plush featherbed for Mr. Cibes, appointing him the first Chancellor of Connecticut’s new Connecticut State University System. Like old soldiers, old political operatives never die, but neither do they fade away. They become associated with lobbying firms or pad their retirements with pensions drawn from tax dollars.

It should surprise no one, least of all the editors of CTMirror, that Mr. Cibes continues to insist that Connecticut is undertaxed. Mr. Cibes certainly is within easy reach of the reporters and editors of CTMirror. Mr. Weicker’s former OPM chief was one of the co-founders of CTMirror and serves on its board of directors, as does Stanley Twardy, former Chief of Staff for Mr. Weicker. According to a report in Raising Hale, CTMirror is published by Connecticut News Project. A review of political contributions by board members of CTMirror shows that eight of the ten board members have made donations to political candidates totaling more than $125,000, seventy five percent of which enriched Democrats.

The Weicker-Cibes income tax of 1991 dropped the sales tax rate from 8% to 6% and the corporate tax rate from 13.8% to 11.5%. A Rainy Day tax fund, since depleted by spendthrifts in the General Assembly, was also introduced, along with a largely irrelevant constitutional expenditure cap. Through inadvertence or design, the Democrat dominated General Assembly never quite got around to implementing the constitutional cap and, following the passage of the Weicker-Cibes income tax, spending in the state tripled within the space of three governors, two of whom were Republicans.

Mr. Cibes’ pitch on the necessity of tax increases sounds wearily familiar, especially coming on the heels of Governor Dannel Malloy’s massive tax increase, the largest in state history, which out-revenued even the Weicker-Cibes income tax.

Commending a plan put forward by “Better Choices For Connecticut”, progressive tax grabbers, Mr. Cibes argued a few years ago in his pitch for higher taxes that Connecticut could not possibly offset its deficit through spending reductions alone, and he called for a “fair share’ sacrifice on the part of taxpayers and tax gobblers, a motif candidate for governor Dannel Malloy deployed effectively in his campaign.

The revenue proposals promoted by “Better Choices For Connecticut” and embraced by Mr. Cibes included an increase in the income tax for “those who can best afford it,” likely anyone making more than $250,000 per year, an increase in corporate taxes and an increase in the sales tax. The corrective measures promoted by Mr. Cibes insert progressive features into the Weicker-Cibes income tax, considered by some when it was passed as insufficiently progressive. At the time of passage, Mr. Cibes had told the New York Times that the architecture of the tax made it more progressive than it seemed. But progressives believe you can never have enough of a good thing.

Once the new revenue proposals are imposed on the Weicker-Cibes income tax, Connecticut will have adopted the same tax scheme Mr. Cibes promoted when he ran for governor way back in 1991. Property tax relief is little more than a convenient cover that will allow progressive Democrats to boost taxes when, after the upcoming elections, the state once again finds itself confronting a $2 billion deficit brought on by exorbitant spending. And the reporters and editors at CTMirror are too bright not to have noticed the obvious sham. One can only conclude that in failing to report sufficiently on one of its board of directors, CTMirror did not wish to place before its readers such inconvenient truths as might disturb Mr. Cibes and others who financially support the Connecticut News Project.
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