Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Alternative Republican Budget

Just when the Connecticut chorus advocating more spending has become taxing, the Republican Party – absent Governor Jodi Rell, who has become a party unto herself – cleared its throat and began to sing a familiar tune.

Republicans this year have produced their own budget, apparently on the sly, and not unexpectedly it contains zero tax increases.

The problem with the Republican Party budget is not that it is little more than a series of campaign debating points; on the contrary, the GOP budget is detailed and comprehensive. The problem is that the alternative budget will be treated by the governor, the media and less so by Democrat legislative leaders, who will simply ignore it, as a “point of departure” for negotiations; serious budget negotiations will take place between the governor, who yet disposes of a few bargaining chips, and a Democrat legislature on steroids.

Both the governor and Democrats have shown themselves to be big-time constitutional spending cap busters.

The Democrats are coming off a Rocky Mountain high. For the first time in many years Democrats have a majority in the legislature sufficient to override a gubernatorial veto. What is the point in having absolute power, a famous caricaturist one asked, if you are not willing to abuse it?

How bad is it?

A few weeks ago, the smiling and unwinking President Pro Tem of the Senate, Mr. Don Williams, unveiled a Democrat plan for universal health insurance that would have added about $18 billion to an already bloated $16 billion budget – and no one shrieked. The $18 billion tax supported single payer insurance plan was intended to cover everyone in the state, not only those who have no insurance. It was thought indelicate to press this plan to raise taxes through the roof at a time when the legislature is enjoying record surpluses and the rainy day fund is well stocked. So the plan was moved to the legislative back burner. Mr. Williams said it would be difficult to further fleece taxpayers this year.

But there’s always next year. And if the Democrats succeed in moving tax payments to those earning more than $200,000 a year from their poorer tax paying cousins according to the well known progressive formula “to each according to his needs from each according to his means,” they will have removed a break on spending that so far has “limited” the increase in the budget from about $8 billion, in pre-income tax days, to about $16 billion today, all within the administrations of three governor, two of whom were Republicans; the third, former Sen. and Governor Lowell Weicker, was his own man.

The Democrat plan, according to the press office sound bite, will “cut taxes” for 90% of taxpayers in the state. One can only imagine what the bottom line in future budget will be once “millionaires” in Connecticut have surrendered their “fair share” of taxes.

When former Republican Party senatorial nominee Alan Schlesinger said during his campaign “If you think social security is expensive now, just wait until it’s free,” he meant that citizens who do not pay for increases in spending are less than eager to punish legislators who overspend. Why should the 90% of taxpayers in Connecticut who will see their tax payments reduced under the Democrat plan care if Mr. Williams adds another $18 billion to the budget -- provided someone else picks up the tab? Pushed to the limit, progressive taxation is a recipe for irresponsibility.

The Republicans who produced the no tax increase budget think that spending increases of this nature cannot be sustained. The smaller pool of taxpayers renders collections less stable. The “fair share” the “millionaires” pay will be determined others who have a stake in raising their taxes, and people earning more than $200,000 – far from millionaires -- are mobile, precisely the kinds of entrepreneurs the state does not want to lose to low tax states far less predatory than Connecticut.

The GOP alternative budget may be too little too late. In the future, if real Republicans truly want to pass a responsible budget, they may want to try supporting and backing a real Republican governor.

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