Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cibes Rises

Many of the young people who read Bill Cibes' op-ed column in the Hartford Courant, “In Case Of Rain, Break Open: State Fund Meant For Tough Times,” may well be asking themselves “Cibes who?”

The op-ed piece was attributed to two authors. Cibes is identified in the by-line as the former “secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management” and “a member of the board of the Connecticut Association for Human Services.” His co-author, Elizabeth McNichol, is “a senior fellow with the State Fiscal Project of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, which focuses on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals.”

Cibes is so much larger than his titles suggest. Before he was chosen by former Governor Lowell Weicker to head the Office of Policy Management, Cibes was a candidate for governor. His primary campaign program had but one serious plank – the state needs an income tax – and he was beaten with the plank in the primary election by an enlightened citizenry, a mob of anti-income tax Democrats who thought, rightly as it turned out, that an income tax would be a license to spend money at a time when legislators should have been making efforts to trim the budget.

Running as an independent against Cibes, Republican gubernatorial nominee John Rowland and Democrat nominee Bruce Morrison, both of whom rejected an income tax, Weicker pulled a Weicker: He strongly suggested during the campaign that he would not resort to an income tax to discharge a mounting deficit – instituting an income tax, Weicker said, “would be like pouring gas on a fire” – and then, after having won office in a three man race, Weicker brought Cibes into his administration as his budget chief.

The rest is, as the mourners say, history.

Most of the media in the state that had followed Weicker’s senatorial career with panting breath also favored an income tax, the Courant’s editorial board and its chief political writer, Charlie Morse – who later joined the Weicker administration – among them. Weicker cannoodled some Republican legislators into voting for the tax that doomed Cibes’ gubernatorial run, and before you could say “Why don’t we double spending in the next ten years,” the deed was done.

When Weicker left office, later shaking the dust of Connecticut from his feet, he prepared a downey fall for Cibes, who became the first chancellor of the state’s four state colleges, a position created at the tail end of the Weicker administration by a no doubt grateful governor.

Weicker once joked that his Lieutenant Governor, Eunice Groark, was the mother of the state income tax. By the tax was a bastard whose parentage is still in dispute. Some say Cibes is the daddy; others say Weicker is the daddy.

After retiring from his featherbedded job as chancellor of Connecticut’s state university system, Cibes is back in the fray.

And what does he want now?

Can anyone guess?

Cibes wants money – not for himself, it is understood; he got that from Weicker. Cibes wants the state to dip into its rainy day fund to pay off the tide of red ink in future budget’s that the income tax was designed to stem.

“By tapping this fund,” Cibes advises, “states can minimize the need to raise taxes or cut back on services such as health care or education to deal with temporary budget problems created by unforeseen events.”

Cibes wants to use the little cash still left in the till to “invest” in job development and – big surprise here – education.

Funny how the spending serpent, biting its own tail, circles in upon itself: We spent a lot of money, and so we needed an income tax; then we got an income tax; then we spent more money; and now we need to plunder the state’s rainy day fund which, Cibes and McNichol tells us, was designed expressly to sop up red ink.

Young people – many of whom had already got the message and left the state – must be asking themselves “Where will it all end?”

And the honest answer is -- in the poor house, may Cibes’ blessings be upon it.


Anonymous said...

Did not realize that Cibes' income tax proposal was rejected by such a large margin, and by Democrats too. Where have they all gone?

Don Pesci said...


They're still out there -- suffering.

The NYT link on Morrison is intensely interesting to me. The paper obviously, even in its news reports, favored Cibes and later Weicker. At one point O'Neill is reported to have favored Cibes, because Morrison was running as an anti-O'Neill Democrat reformer.

When Weicker became governor, he implimented the Cibes plank on the income tax that had been rejected by 65% of Democrats. But tghese were merely voters -- not legislators.

With the help of papers that made a 2 million deficit molehill into a mountain, Weicker was able to garner enought "votes" in the legislature to overturn the preferences of Democrat primary voters. And the tax was in, Cibes was in, and the rest of us were in for it.

Don Pesci said...

Oops, it was a $200 million deficit: Here is the relevent graph from the Time's story: "In his fiscal package, Mr. Weicker, a Greenwich resident who was defeated in 1988 in a bid for a fourth term in the Senate, said the projected $200 million deficit facing the state by the end of this fiscal year next June 30 could be eliminated through the attrition of state employees and through reducing consulting fees, computer purchases and other costs."

Don Pesci said...

Here is a commentary on Weicker's post income tax budget: “How accountable has Mr. Weicker been? His 1993-94 budget is an embarrassment of gimmickry and deception. The statutory cap is still law, but since exemptions can be made by a simple majority, Weicker and the Democrats have exempted a number of spending programs. By now, over one-third of the budget is outside the cap. One exempted item, Grants to Distressed Municipalities, grew by 12 per cent this year. Under this umbrella 10 per cent of the state's budget went to 11 Democratic strongholds for ordinary expenses like teachers' salaries and road repairs. Also, a $114-million surplus that occurred when the income tax took effect was "appropriated" for spending in the following years, rather than being counted as a surplus. This gimmick, which the constitutional amendment would prohibit, raised the base the Democrats used for calculating their allowable spending increase and disguised their real current expenditures.
“As he signed the 1993-94 budget into law, Weicker proclaimed that this budget "follows the wishes of the voters as expressed in November." But the voters ratified a spending cap equal to the higher of the increase in inflation (now about 3 per cent) and the increase in personal income (an anemic 2 per cent). Weicker and his Democratic allies have nonetheless defined the terms of the statutory cap to allow for a 5.6 per cent growth in the budget. And the 1993-94 General Fund Budget, without gimmicks, grew 7.6 per cent.” -- Weicker's World;col1-- Governor Lowell Weicker's tax policies in Connecticut. National Review, Jan 24, 1994 by Jeffrey Christensen