Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Surplus State

Zach Janowski, the Yankee Institute investigative reporter singled out by incompetent SEBAC leaders in their baseless complaint to the attorney general’s office as a “so called” investigative reporter, has disclosed in his latest report that Connecticut has collected “$1.1 billion more taxes than expected last fiscal year, the same day that Gov. Dannel Malloy’s $900 million retroactive income tax increase went into effect.”

Although the Malloy administration failed to reach by some $400 million the $2 billion in cost savings measures it initially had demanded from SEBAC, the coalition of state unions authorized to negotiate contracts with the administration, the tax increases the administration imposed upon nearly everyone in the state as a part of its “shared sacrifice” effort has, perhaps unsurprisingly, yielded an “unexpected” surplus.

The Malloy surplus, made possible in part by an ex post facto income tax charge, should not astonish those commentators in the state who have previously reported on state budgets. Surpluses were common in the budget years following the imposition of the Lowell P. Weicker Jr. income tax.

The predictable announcements of surpluses during these years of plenty followed an almost religiously observed rite, beginning with an declaration of a possible deficit, followed by an agonizing appraisal of the likely damage done to Connecticut’s fragile social services net should the legislature be so unwise as to insure savings necessary to balance their budget through prudent cuts, followed by a last minute announcement that an unanticipated surplus had magically materialized, obviating the need for cuts and permitting legislators to return to their districts and there proceed to hand out state distributed goodies before their next election.

This budget year, the usual dance varied, but not much, from the usual formula.

Mr. Malloy, the first Democratic governor in more than 20 years, had been wafted into office on a promise that as governor he would not resort to the same discreditable budget persiflage as his predecessors – two Republican governors and another, Mr. Weicker, of indeterminate party status -- all of whom had produces surpluses to avoid raising taxes or cutting costs.

GAAP would be instituted, Mr. Malloy vowed during his campaign, to prevent wily politicians from drawing revenue from future budgets and dragging them into the current year, while at the same time pushing costs into succeeding budgets. The state’s current Comptroller, Kevin Lembo, recently advised that the state’s antique computer system is not prepared to handle such accounting changes; which is all very well and good -- because Mr. Malloy had postponed implementation of the new accounting procedures for a couple of years. And there is no need to fudge figures in any case, because wily Democratic legislators – Big surprise here! – had embedded into the Malloy budget an artificial surplus that would relieve the pressure put upon them to cut costs.

All this spelled frustration for Republicans and others who were trying unsuccessfully to force Democrats who control the legislature to cut costs by denying them revenues. The presence of red ink in a budget usually is a persuasive spending disincentive for rational legislators. But time-serving progressive ideologues committed to wealth transfers from productive workers in the private marketplace to unionized state workers are addicted to reflexive spending. So long as the General Assembly’s table sags with surpluses, crapulous senators and house members will continue to feast on fare taken from the more modest tables of productive workers. Surpluses, which are tax overcharges, are anti-stimulants for anyone who is not a tax consumer. While prudent tax cuts – a prospect far beyond the intention of the average spendthrift politician – stimulate the economy, wealth transfers stimulate the ungovernable appetite of spendthrift politicians who, unlike the fascists of a bygone day, lack in a functioning democracy the means of making the trains run on time.

A handful of legislators in the General Assembly, Sen. Joe Markley of Southington among them, get all this.

“The enormous tax hike,” said Sen. Joe Markley of Mr. Malloy’s tax boost, “was the sad result of our addiction to spending, which we still haven’t kicked. The bigger the tax increase, the more dire its affect will be on our state economy. I’d love to see Malloy call us back and undo some of the new taxes in light of this surplus, but I don’t expect it – big-government types generally celebrate such surpluses, rather than feel ashamed of them.”

A few more Markleys in the General Assembly may save Connecticut the embarrassment of a rapid decline, followed by default.

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