Governor Dannel Malloy thinks he is at least as courageous as former Governor Lowell Weicker, the father of Connecticut’s income tax.
“People said we need someone to be as brave as Lowell Weicker, to do what they believed was necessary to save the state,” Mr. Malloy told CTMirror. “I’ve done that. I’ve done it in all earnest, regardless of what the political consequences were.”
Mr. Weicker is on record as having said he believes Mr. Malloy is courageous. Both governors discharged large deficits through large tax increases. Both suffered criticism, most of it coming from ordinary people rather than politicians or left of center political commentators who ply their trade in Connecticut’s reportorial-political complex.
Through shear persistence, Mr. Weicker was able to force an income tax through Connecticut’s General Assembly after he had vetoed three non-income tax budgets. Following the vote instituting the income tax -- until the advent of Mr. Malloy, the largest tax increase in Connecticut history -- a massive crowd turned out on the state Capitol lawn to protest the imposition. Mr. Weicker taunted the protesters and courageously waded in among them. He was not kindly received.
Concerning Mr. Weicker’s first veto, The New York Times noted: “The last time that a Connecticut governor vetoed a budget bill was in 1971, when Gov. Thomas J. Meskill, a Republican, rejected the legislature's efforts. The further historical parallel that Governor Meskill's veto resulted in Connecticut's only other flirtation with the income tax has not been lost on lawmakers. After returning in a special session in June of that year, the legislature passed an income tax but repealed the law less than two months later amid a storm of public protest.”
After his first term as governor, Mr. Weicker courageously decided not to run for another term in office and high-tailed it out of state, though the rarely modest Mr. Weicker has said recently that he certainly would have been re-elected governor had he decided to give people of Connecticut the opportunity to vote him in or out of office for a second – and, who knows, possibly a third or fourth – term as governor. Courageous autocrats – Julius Cesar, Caligula, Robespierre, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, the Castro brothers, Vladimir Putin and Weicker -- often make the mistake of identifying themselves as the state. But an income tax that is good for elected officials, the administrative apparatus, may not be good for the virtual state; which is to say all the people in Connecticut who have tolerated with remarkable good humor the profligate spending of their politicians.
Since Mr. Weicker graced the state with his income tax, the state budget, under the ministrations of a dominant and increasingly progressive Democratic General Assembly, two Republican governors and the first Democratic governor elected to office since the administration of former Governor William O’Neill, has tripled in size, which would seem to confirm the worst fears of Mark Twain, among others, who noted, “No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”
Indeed, every penny taken by the General Assembly is a penny lost to the producers of prosperity, wealth creators in the private sector who use profits to expand businesses and create jobs for Connecticut’s vanishing Middle Class. That is why taxation should be used sparingly and wisely. The Weicker income tax was a permit to triple the bottom line of Connecticut’s budget; the dominant Democratic legislature rose eagerly to the occasion. Moreover, the imposition of an income tax expunged Connecticut’s unique posture as a business friendly, low regulatory state, which is why other business savvy Democratic governors such as Ella Grasso so fiercely resisted the income tax. An income tax was imposed -- and quickly repealed – during the administration of Republican Governor Thomas Meskill, who preceded Mrs. Grasso in office. In the eyes of businesses both in and out of state, the intentions of legislators and governors as expressed in tax and regulatory policy matter much more than the flighty, highly attenuated campaign promises of political leaders.
Mr. Malloy recently claimed that United Technology, a multi-billion dollar international company, had been anchored in Connecticut by virtue of a tax preferment offered by the governor. People who develop the long range business plans of multi-billion dollar international companies rarely figure into those plans self-elapsing tax preferments offered by governors in election years.
However, the tax preferments offered by Mr. Malloy to select companies represent an overt acknowledgement of the Mark Twain theorem that money is most productive when it is left in the hands of prosperity producers rather than lean and hungry tax consumers who successfully petition crony capitalist chief executives to tilt the economic table in their favor. Progressives desperately need a tilted table to serve in office. When the playing field is even -- so that tax reductions of one kind or another are equably distributed to all the players on the field in the form of permanent tax cuts and permanent regulatory exemption – progressives are left with nothing to do. If no economic political prisoners are taken, there can be no crowd pleasing public executions or exonerations.
When asked recently during a Face The State debate who their favorite Connecticut Governor was, all three Republican primary contestants for Lieutenant Governor mentioned Mrs. Grasso, and one, considering the Democratic Party’s descent into an outworn economically ruinous progressivism, ventured that Mrs. Grasso might be a Republican were she alive today.
Mrs. Grasso had a rather spry tongue. We can guess with some degree of accuracy what she might have said of Mr. Weicker’s income tax. At a time in the Democratic Party when moderates such as she have been completely routed by progressives with knives in their brains, it is possible to imagine her directing few choice words at her party’s leaders, while offering up prayers at St. Mary’s Church in Windsor Locks for a return to normalcy.