Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Tolls In Our Future

Fasano and Looney
“The numbers add up. I’m here to solve problems — not to study problems. ... Let’s get this thing started in an honest and comprehensive way.”  -- Governor Lamont to Connecticut's media.

Democrats may have been thinking that among the many blessings Connecticut’s overtaxed citizens should thank God for this past Thanksgiving was – tolls. We are told that Governor Ned Lamont and “legislators” – read, Democrat legislators -- had decided, during a closed conference two days before Thanksgiving, to present a trucks only tolls “compromise” bill to the General Assembly before Christmas.

And a Merry Christmas to you too.

This may seem, in Yogi Berra’s memorable phrase, like “deja vu all over again” to folks gathered around the Thanksgiving table this year, many of whom have arrived in Connecticut from less tax predatory states. Connecticut’s state and local tax burden is 12.6%, second in the nation behind New York, according to a 2019 report from  the Federation of Tax Administrators.

During his campaign for Governor, Lamont proposed a trucks only toll. Once elected to office, tolling metastasized to 58 gantries on major highways in Connecticut, the use-tax to be paid by everyone. The tax grab was fiercely resisted by one of the most impressive grass roots efforts that has arisen in Connecticut in recent decades, “No Tolls CT.” Tolling then appeared to have flat lined but was revived in the pre-Thanksgiving meeting of General Assembly leaders , and now we are back to truck tolls only.

If people who have not yet fled the state want to have a politically unvarnished view of their futures, they have only to reverse the newsreel: truck tolls will lead ineluctable to multiple gantries on major highways at which everyone will pay their fair share, even if a state constitutional amendment is attached to the tolling legislation as a surety that tolls will be applied to – no kidding – trucks only.

In a Facebook comment on former Senator Joe Markley's site Dean Loucks writes, “First it was trucks, then it was cars, then bridges, now it's back to trucks. Does he [Lamont] and his fellow Dems really know what they are doing?” Yes Dean, they do. “If it's trucks only, we will be tied up in the courts like RI. Here is a thought, why don't they cut spending?”

People may not need to be reminded that a constitutional spending cap had been attached to the Lowell Weicker income tax as an inducement to wavering legislators to vote for the tax on wages. Decades after the tax had been implemented -- surrounded with enabling definitions -- Attorney General George Jepsen found that the cap had never been operative because the Democrat dominated General Assembly had not produced enabling definitions. The constitutional cap, it turned out, was merely a decorative adornment.

Where there is a way in politics, there is a way around.

The income tax did not lead to 1) permanent, long-term decreases in spending, 2) an end to the niggling, little taxes the income tax was designed to displace, 3) an end to continuing deficits, 4) an end to further large tax increases, 5) prudent spending, 6) personal enrichment, 7) permanent, long term cost-saving  measures that would increase the flow of businesses both in and into Connecticut, 8) an increase President John Kennedy’s rising tide of prosperity that “lifts all the boats,” 9) an end to ten-year-long recessions in Connecticut, 10) a significant reduction in crippling pension debt, 11) trust in government.

The reason why the income tax did not lead to the benefits listed above is that Connecticut never was – and is not nowsuffering from a revenue problem. It ALWAYS has been suffering from a spending and reveue distribution  problem, as Connecticut Commentary noted in a blog/column printed ten years ago. Dean Loukis and others – by no means only Republicans – now understand that tax increases of any kind relieve a cowardly General Assembly and Governor of the necessity of attacking the real root cause of our problems, which lies in the precipitous growth of spending and a consequent need to increase taxes.

No official poll has been taken, but Lamont’s abysmally low Morning Consult approval rating last July of 32% point to a lack of trust. The approval rating of the tax hungry General Assembly, if one were ever undertaken, almost certainly would be substantially lower.

Lamont is wrong on all points of his central message: The numbers in the Democrat House plan do not add up because, as always, revenue projections and cost savings anticipations are made by sugarplum fairies; Lamont and the two gatekeepers in the General Assembly, Joe Arsimowitcz in the House and Martin Looney in the Senate, are not here to solve Connecticut’s problems; their business, as always, is to ease their own way by once again raising taxes and to assure the election to office of  progressive Democrats; and finally “this thing,” whether not to further burden Loukis with more taxes and more spending, can only honestly and comprehensively be decided by legislators and governors who place the public interest above the multifarious interests that, in the past, have returned the non-problem solvers to office.

Otto von Bismarck said all this in a single sentence: “Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied,” good advice for the few journalists in Connecticut who put the welfare of the people of Connecticut above that of the comfort of politicians.       

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