Thursday, February 01, 2018

Ask Not For Whom The Tolls Toll, They Toll For Thee

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity --  W.B. Yeats

It did not take Governor Dannel Malloy long to renege on his vow not to impose more taxes on those voters in Connecticut, poor suckers, who trusted he meant what he said when, following the imposition of two major tax increases – the largest and the second largest in state history – they twice elected him to the position he is now abandoning.

But at last Malloy has arrived at the usual progressive default position, according to a headline in a Hartford paper: “Connecticut Governor To Propose Highway Tolls.” Malloy regards the current gas tax, reduced partly by more fuel efficient engines, as “a dying funding source.” He has proposed tolls as a funding enhancement; other progressives had been flirting with a mileage tax.

A toll, as anyone who has paid one knows, is a tax – a tax being revenue collected by state government to pay for services -- a good part of which is swallowed up by pensions and salaries obligations. Over the years, progressive Democrats have used taxes as a turnstile to re-route collections from the haves to the have-nots. Increasingly, state workers receiving tax funds enjoy greater benefits than their equivalents in the private economy who, in Connecticut, pay the brunt of taxes. 

The state has long since passed the point of diminishing returns, that hot spot in the economy when increases in revenue through the imposition of taxes result in less revenue. A state knows when this point has been reached; the signs are unmistakable. State revenue appears to decrease because increasing taxes spurs spending in legislatures. It is an inflexible law in government that higher taxes lead ineluctably to spending increases. Just as an increase in profits in the private market occasion spending that leads to the growth of companies, so in state government tax increases produce correlative spending increases.

That is what has been happening in Connecticut ever since an unaffiliated progressive governor, Lowell Weicker, the father of Connecticut’s income tax, was succeeded by progressive Governor Dannel Malloy. This progressive gubernatorial bracket, along with the weak Republican governors it enclosed, who hadn’t the intestinal fortitude to resist the tug of politically convenient practices – always meet a deficit by increasing taxes; rarely institute permanent, long-term cuts in spending, which risks offending state employees who have now become a fourth branch of Connecticut government – has wrecked the real state, which should never be confused with the administrative state. To put the matter briefly, Weicker’s income tax and Malloy’s crushing taxes have saved state government the necessity of instituting long-term permanent cuts in spending. All taxes, as we know, are forever. Former President Ronald Reagan put it most forcefully when he said he had never encountered anything so permanent as a temporary tax.

The Democrat Party in Connecticut is the party that has learned nothing – taxes and excessive regulations kill – and forgotten everything. The progressive wing of the party has now become party central. There are no live options , i.e. moderate Democrats, sitting in power positions in Connecticut. All have been displaced by progressives, quasi-socialists with knives in their brains.

Connecticut levies two taxes on gas, one at the port and one at the pump. Those taxes were supposed to have been devoted to transportation maintenance and improvement. Instead, they were filched from lockboxes and transferred to general funds, mostly to balance budgets chronically out of balance – because tax increases spur spending, and few Democrats could be found in the state to initiate broad-based, permanent, long-term cuts in spending. Other funds were raided as well. Discretionary funding was crowded out by "fixed costs," spending lockboxes that could not be affected by cuts. Making programs untouchable is a strategic device that saves progressives in the General Assembly from executing their unpleasant constitutional responsibilities. The Democrat dominated General Assembly has willingly surrendered its constitutional control over budgets to cosseted unions and an executive department apparat not answerable to voters.

This politically convenient destruction of constitutional obligations has created budgetary anarchy in Connecticut, and the answer to anarchy is a restoration of republican, representative liberty. State employee pensions and salaries have become too costly to be determined by contracts negotiated between unions and the governor’s office, nearly always ratified by a timid and cowed General Assembly. Such contracts make the judicial department the ultimate arbiter of state budgets. Connecticut is one of only four states in the union that does not fashion its state employee salaries and benefits through statute rather than contracts.

During the upcoming political campaigns, Republicans who wish to live up to their name should agitate for an end to contracts, so that a representative General Assembly may determine state employee salaries and benefits by statute. At the very least, pensions should be removed from all contract negotiations with unions, and new hires should adopt either 401K plans or some other pension replacement device. If pensions are removed from contracts, pension negotiations also will be removed from contractual considerations.  

It is a lack of conviction on the part of legislators, combined with the passionate intensity of those who wish to enlist state government in efforts, successful so far, that invest them with preferments inimical to the general good, that has destroyed the larger state of Connecticut. Our government has become a union-subservient oligarchy in perpetual opposition to a sometime imaginary plutocracy.

Enough! It’s time to restore representative, constitutional government in what once was the constitution state.

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