Friday, November 08, 2019

In Politicians We Trust


The matter of trust in government always lies like a dagger in the clenched fists of the disenchanted. It was American lawyer, newspaper editor and politician Gideon John Tucker (1826-1899) who said “no man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the Legislature is in session.”

The CTMirror report is titled, Lamont: Trust me. GOP lawmakers: Why should we? The title may leave behind the impression that only quarrelsome Republican legislators mistrust the usual Democrat hegemony in the General Assembly. What else is new?

That clearly is not true. It has been mistrust – not to speak of mistreatment – that has caused in Connecticut a lingering ten year recession that elsewhere in the country ended in the second quarter of 2009. Businesses have moved out of state; so have people. “Connecticut ranks third from last nationally on United Van Lines’ annual study of outbound moves, with New Jersey dead bottom,” The Hour tells us.

This year, as Connecticut families gather for Thanksgiving, the number of people at the table giving thanks to God – not state government -- will have been thinned. Not present will be active workers who have moved, along with their businesses, to other states; recent Connecticut graduates who have carried their very expensive, tax supported sheepskins to less expensive, less predatory states; and, of course, the old geezers who have moved to Florida because their lumbagos are acting up.

Every time a young worker moves out of state, Connecticut’s revenue is diminished over the years depending upon how young the expat is. If he or she is, say 22, the average age of college graduates, the state of Connecticut stands to lose about 55 years in tax receipts, both municipal and state. Those chairs at the Thanksgiving feast, either empty or occupied by out of state family members, are very expensive indeed. Former Governor Jodi Rell has long since moved to Florida, and while former Governor Dan Malloy may or may not be home for Thanksgiving, he will not be shoveling sales tax cash into the Connecticut treasury both he and Lamont have broadened and deepened so long as he is occupied, as Chancellor of Maine’s University system, enjoying the winter weather. Like Connecticut, Maine has a progressive income tax, and its total tax burden is higher than Connecticut’s, but its sales tax is among the lowest in the nation.

Not everyone who has voted against the Connecticut legislature with their feet has lumbago, and it is not only winter that is thinning the herd of milch cows.

Whence all this mistrust?

Despite a new constitutional “lock-box” provision specifically created to prevent legislators from transferring to the general fund tax receipts designated for other purposes, “just last June,” CTMirror reports, “Lamont and his fellow Democrats in the legislature blocked a major infusion of sales tax revenues earmarked for the Special Transportation Fund.” Fake lock-boxes and caps on spending are the rule rather than the exception in Connecticut’s government. The constitutional cap on spending attached to the Lowell Weicker income tax, largely to persuade wavering legislators to vote for the income tax bill, was invalid and unenforceable, Attorney General George Jepsen advised 24 years after the income tax had been inaugurated, because the state legislature had neglected to provide legal definitions to trigger the cap.

Given easily pilfered lock-boxes, inoperable constitutional caps on spending, diversions of tax receipts from the transportation to the general fund, the alarming growth of dedicated funding that cannot be cut, the flight of entrepreneurial capital to less predatory states, and the disposition of legislators to escape the necessity of spending reduction through repeated tax increases, is it any wonder that there is in Connecticut a trust deficit among middle class workers who fund the government, and a quite understandable reluctance on their part to embrace new sources of revenue?

The more they get, the more they spend; the more they spend, the more they need; the more they need, the more they tax. That is an accurate thumb-nail sketch of Connecticut’s legislative history for the past three decades. Lamont has now discovered a 3.2 billion gap in the state budget. How much of that gap will be back-filled by permanent, long-term spending cuts, rather than long term permanent taxes? And is this the kind of government any reasonable nutmegger should  trust with his life, liberty and property?

Having taken the temperature of voters in Connecticut, Republican leader Vincent Candelora of North Branford said “I don’t hear the desire to go in the direction of tolls. There are trust issues with the public. There are trust issues in the building. I never want to lead a solution with revenue. I would rather look toward finding efficiencies, rather than finding a new revenue source.”


Why are new revenue sources – i.e. tolls of any shape or size – imprudent? Answer: if you introduce a new revenue stream into Connecticut's already swollen and raging revenue river, you relieve the lazy legislative louts Tucker referenced from the necessity of cutting spending, which is good for the louts but bad for everyone else.



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