by user Don Pesci
A chastened Governor Jodi Rell appeared on a radio talk show program while Democrats in the legislature were attempting to pass a “more progressive” income tax and said she would not sign the Democrat tax plan.
Once the governor discovered that Connecticut would be awash in revenue for the next few years, she pulled off the bargaining table her plan to raise the income tax, a reversal that Democrat leaders are not likely to let her forget.
The Democrat tax plan cannot be called a budget, because a budget shows outlays for taxing and spending. In previous years, it was thought necessary to present to the legislature budgets that detailed both taxing and spending ledgers. Democrats this year want to get their tax plan passed before they unveil their spending plan. Once the two are put together, Connecticut will have a budget.
Since the only reason offered by Democrat leaders for the unorthodox process was force majeure – We did it because we could do it – one can only speculate why the architects of this year’s progressive Democrat budget plan did not trust their troops enough to present the whole plan to them.
Progressive taxes create animosities between wealthy and less wealthy towns – between those who pay the more progressive tax and those pay a lesser tax, and also between those who receive more and lesser services.
If fact, the class war began even while Democrat leader President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams was trying to convince Sen. Edward Meyer, a Democrat from one of Connecticut’s plucked and plundered districts, to vote for half a budget plan.
"We're being asked to vote for a revenue package without knowing how those revenues would be spent,” Meyer said, something that I understand has not been done. You're buying a pig in a poke.
A good soldier, Mayer bought the pig in a poke anyway, on the strength of William’s assurance that those who dispense the goodies would sweeten the pot in tony Guilford and Madison, two towns in Mayer's district that expect their senator to bring home the bacon.
Unless some adjustments in outlays are made by Williams and Speaker of the House Jim Amann, once thought to be a fiscal conservative, the rich towns will get hit up twice: once when the pay more in taxes, and again when they receive less in state services.
Amann was said to be surprised when, having failed to coral enough votes to override a predictable gubernatorial veto on the more progressive income tax, Williams announced on Memorial Day that he intended to push through his plan anyway. The Democrats had enough votes to pass their tax plan but not enough to override a Rell veto – probably because other Democrats with a foothold in wealthier towns were not willing to buy pigs in pokes.
William’s best laid plan was torn asunder in the end, because he was not able to command enough votes to override Rell’s veto. But should the bill pass in the future, all Democrats, both in the state legislature and in the towns, and all Republicans had better get used to attending legislative sessions with tin cups in their hands. For the beauty of the progressive income tax is not only that it provides a means of transferring wealth from those according to their means to those according to their needs; it also provides those who dispense the goodies with life and death power over other legislators. The progressive income tax empowers the needy by making the Democrat leadership all powerful -- which ought to put smiles on the faces of Williams and Amann.
So far, the Republicans have not been able to answer with a short and pity response that will fit on a bumper sticker Democrat claims that their progressive tax is fair-minded. The best they could do this time was to question why Democrats felt they needed extra taxes when revenue projections show a surplus of, in round figures, a bilion dollars.
When you say to the middle class “We’re going to lower your taxes and raise the taxes of those who are better able than you to pay for our improvident spending,” workers in Connecticut who make less than $250,000 a year will receive the message with a smile. Everyone loves to consume state services and charge the bill to someone else. The progressive tax enlarges the pool of citizens who consume services without paying for them. It is an enticing message, but one in the end that is simply too good to be true.
Because ultimately there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Let The Class Warfare Begin
President Pro Tem of the state Senate Don Williams probably should have had a chat with Speaker of the House Jim Amann sometime earlier in the great budget battle of 2007.
First, Williams incorrectly counted Democrat votes in the senate. His tax plan, a scheme to force rich towns to pay more for state services while receiving less in services, fell short of the number of votes he needed to pass the plan over a gubernatorial veto. Then Williams decided, apparently without conferring with Amann, to permit the senate to vote on the measure anyway. Amann was reported to have been surprised at the vote, which passed by the narrowest of margins, a single vote cast by Senator Edward Meyer, who decided at the last moment to put his misgivings behind him and trust that Williams was not selling him a pig in a poke.
The House, refusing to consider Williams’ measure, preferred its own bill, which contained a tax cut absent from the senate plan. The tax cut, a temporary cut in the gas tax for the summer, is widely regarded by critics as little more than a Democrat campaign stuffer.
After all the deliberations and backroom pavalering, the Williams/Amann bill was vetoed by Rell as promised. Immediately, Democrats began to pound on their campaign tocsins.
Rell, the Democrats gleefully pointed out, had now gone on record, as one report put it as having been “opposed to a tax package that would cut taxes for a majority of taxpayers, while raising the income tax on households earning more than $272,000 annually.”
Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney said, "This is a very important issue of accountability and a statement of principle.”
When Republicans pointed out that a review by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis showed that only 58% rather than 95% of Connecticut taxpayers would receive an income tax cut under the Democrat plan, Jim Amann remarked that he was "Glad to see the Republicans coming around. They finally admit that our tax package will give the majority of taxpayers a tax cut." And Williams noted, "The basic point here is Republicans are quibbling with Democrats over how many people under our plan get tax cuts," Williams said. "Under their plan, no one gets a tax cut. Democrat leaders have six days to negotiate with the governor, and they are understandably anxious.
Republicans, and some Democrats who represent districts that will be paying more in taxes under the Williams/Amann plan while receiving less in services, are asking themselves, “Is this anyway to run a legislature?”
The charitable view is that Williams and Amann don’t want the bill to pass; they just want to use it as a campaign club to gain more seats in the legislature. Even though Democrats presently have enough votes in the legislature to override a gubernatorial veto, more votes would be better. And should Democrats seize the gubernatorial slot in the next election, such cumbersome votes as we have seen in the senate and House would be settled in quiet caucuses out of view of the public, the way it’s traditionally done in efficient one party states.
Behind all the campaign white noise lies the brutal, simple truth. Both Republicans and Democrats are raising spending beyond the rate of inflation, and they are doing this when the treasury is plush with surpluses. On the Democrat side, spending and taxes will increase about 10%. The inescapable message this sends to taxpayers is that costs will not be trimmed during economic good times or bad times. Therefore, spending will increase at all times by whatever amount the Democrat leadership considers “fair.”