Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Back To The Future In Connecticut

“When the fiscal year closes,"Governor Ned Lamont said after he had dotted the “i’s” and crossed the “t’s” of his budget, "Connecticut will have the largest rainy day fund in history and this budget maintains and grows our reserves, providing reliability and predictability for our taxpayers, businesses, and those looking to invest in our state well into the future.”

Lamont did not bother to pause and ask, “Why does the state need such large reserves, the largest in state history?”

Has Lamont detected the grapeshot of yet another national recession in the near future? The last national recession, an 18 month business slowdown that had begun in December 2007, ended elsewhere in the nation ten years ago in 2009. However, Connecticut has yet to recover from the loss of jobs owing to that recession. Why such a long recovery? The reserves Lamont has set aside will not be sufficient to carry the state through yet another ten year recession. Is it permitted to ask, what happened to prior reserves? Was all the money Connecticut had tucked away in its rainy day fund used to offset the ten year recession?

Or did Democrat progressive politicians in the state, attempting to slake their powerful thirst,  dip into that well to satisfy their spending proclivities? And a powerful thirst it was; former Democrat Governor Dannel Malloy was moved to satisfy union demands for more tax dollars by levying two tax increases that, taken together, represent the largest tax increase in state history.  Only very few so called “dedicated funds” have not been pilfered by fund-hopping state politicians when the thirst was on them. The very idea of a dedicated fund in Connecticut or a “lockbox” has become a national joke. There is no safe in the state that cannot be plundered by determined politicians. Funds lifted from the easily picked lock boxes usually are deposited in the state’s general fund, Connecticut’s largest slush fund, and then distributed to favored interest groups.

For Democrats, tolls represent the latest permanent tax increase. Tolls are to Lamont what the income tax was to former “maverick” Governor Lowell Weicker, a new revenue source that relieves legislators of the necessity of cutting spending, the real wellspring of state deficits.

The push for tolls has generated a populist backlash that shows no signs of abating. Even progressive politicians are subject to Newton’s third law of motion: Every action produces an opposite and equal reaction. And the reaction to the prospect of further tax increases – following the usual revenue enhancements levied by businessman Lamont and progressive Democrat leaders in the General Assembly Martin Looney, President of the Senate, and Joe Aresimowicz, Speaker of the House – has been wildly successful in the mobilization of a hearty resistance.

The resisters have laughed to scorn the notion that the Lamont-Looney-Aresimowicz cabal intends to leave new revenues generated by tolls in an impenetrable lock box that revenue hungry legislators cannot transfer into the state’s General (slush) Fund, there to be distributed to favored interest groups. Indeed, the Lamont-Looney-Aresimowicz triumvirate already has reduced the transportation fund by intercepting tax dollar deposits and diverting them to the state’s General Fund. Tax wolves dressed in lambskins then argued shamelessly that tolls were necessary to replenish funds they themselves had diverted into the General Fund.

"Gov. Ned Lamont is being dishonest," Red Jahncke writes in The Day"although he may not realize it. Tolls won’t fund our transportation needs. The condition of Connecticut finances is so dire that it is inevitable that toll receipts will be diverted from transportation to cover ever-increasing state budget deficits. Toll revenues will merely replace current transportation funding, yielding no net increase in funding for roads and rails. In reality, tolls are just another funding source."

The Lamont administration takes us back to a future that has been tried – many times -- and found wanting. The answer to recurring deficits, business flight, the movement of promising young graduates to other states, the bewitching influence state employee unions have exerted on politicians indisposed to cut permanently the cost of government, tax-creep and lingering recessions is not revenue increases, but cost-cutting measures familiar to Lamont when he was a successful businessman. Jahncke is too kind when he writes that Lamont may not realize the inevitable coming raid on toll revenue. He knows.

Everyone knows. Connecticut’s recovery will begin just as soon as progressive political leaders – wolves now clearly dressed in wolves’ clothing -- stop pretending they do not know that state government must call a halt to its decades-old taxation and regulation of entrepreneurial capital and begin in earnest to regulate state government, now a destructive one-party hegemon.  

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