• A Word To The Wise In Connecticut: Cut Spending, Reduce Taxes

    April 8, 2024

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    Democrats in Connecticut’s General Assembly this election year decided not to tinker with Democrat Governor Ned Lamont’s bi-partisan budget.

    We shall have to wait and see whether progressive Democrats in the state legislature are able, before the curtain finally descends on the two year budget, to make final spending adjustments in the budget through sleight-of–hand maneuverers in what is called the state’s “omnibus bill,” a gargantuan final budget edit presented to spending dissenters (read Republicans) moments before legislative adjournment.

    Republicans have often complained they had not received the omnibus bill early enough to read it before adjournment and kill all the new spending “rats” in it.

    So far, according to Democrat leaders, the state’s dominant party has been able to resist the usual blandishments of Connecticut’s clamorous left wing, most ably represented by State Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney of New Haven, the Bernie Sanders of Connecticut politics.

    The lede in a Hartford paper reads: “In a rare move, a key legislative committee has refused to vote as lawmakers are leaving the state budget largely intact as they head toward final negotiations with Gov. Ned Lamont in the coming month.”

    The absence of a vote on the state budget by the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee was noted by House Republican leader Vincent Candelora of North Branford: “The finance committee ended their work and did no revenue package. I think we are in unchartered waters, where we are seeing committees not doing the work that they’re obligated to do. I don’t think this has ever happened,” allowing for a few rare exceptions, said Candelora.

    Democrat budget negotiations with Lamont will now occur behind the Democrat caucus’ closed door, as usual. And Democrats, of course, will leave no public fingerprints on the budget building process. That may be why Democrats have refused to abide by committee oversight and set sail in uncharted waters.  

    Longtime co-chairwoman of the budget committee State Rep. Toni Walker of New Haven approved the approach of the Appropriations Committee. The proposed budget, she noted, was about $1 million below the state’s spending cap, leaving the General Assembly little wiggle room.

    Public hearings, she said, were convincing: “We hear the public every year in our public hearings, and this year it was just as loud: education, education, education; non-profits, non-profits, non-profits. Those were the things we heard almost every single night. We have to listen to the people. That’s why we have the public hearings. … It was decided that we would use the underlying budget as our platform because it’s a good budget. It was a bipartisan budget. … We all came together on 97%, maybe 98% of the things there. We have a commitment to keeping our state moving forward, not backward.”

    Connecticut’s “guardrails,” enacted on a bipartisan basis in 2017 and recently renewed by the legislature, appear to be holding. Whether they will survive the coming flood of importunate left of center demands in the wake of the upcoming elections is very much an open question.

    “Lamont and Republicans,” the Hartford paper noted, “have repeatedly stated that they do not want to violate the guardrails, which helped the state accumulate billions in surpluses that were used to pay down nearly $8 billion in pension debt.”

    For the time being, the Looney left in Connecticut appears content with present constraints on spending. In the future, Looney recommends using federal dollars to satisfy unmet “needs.” If Connecticut had recourse to a leftist dictionary, the word “need” would be defined as “any left of center want.”

    The problem with relying on federal funds to pay for current state spending is that temporary federal grants disappear when they are spent. In such cases, deficits are transferred to the grantees. And if spending in the state is not then reduced, taxes, the bane of most responsible politicians, must be raised commensurately in future years. In many cases, increases in state taxes to meet unchecked spending padded by temporary federal grants has proven to be an exit cue for spendthrift politicians.

    The real cure for nearly all Connecticut’s problems lies in spending reductions and responsible budgeting, but chewing on these bullets would break Looney’s sharp and progressive teeth.

    Tax reductions wisely deployed, as recommended by President John F. Kennedy in a speech delivered to the New York Economics Club a little more than a year before he was assassinated, will serve as an emetic to an over regulated, over taxed economy – without reducing federal revenues. As a nation’s economy expands, revenues increase.

    Sounding very much like a future President Ronald Reagan, Kennedy told the New York Economics Club: “But the most direct and significant kind of federal action aiding economic growth is to make possible an increase in private consumption and investment demand -- to cut the fetters which hold back private spending. In the past, this could be done in part by the increased use of credit and monetary tools, but our balance of payments situation today places limits on our use of those tools for expansion. It could also be done by increasing federal expenditures more rapidly than necessary, but such a course would soon demoralize both the government and our economy. If government is to retain the confidence of the people, it must not spend more than can be justified on grounds of national need or spent with maximum efficiency.

    “The final and best means of strengthening demand among consumers and business is to reduce the burden on private income and the deterrents to private initiative which are imposed by our present tax system -- and this administration pledged itself last summer to an across-the-board, top-to-bottom cut in personal and corporate income taxes to be enacted and become effective in 1963.”

    The Kennedy reforms were enacted, and they performed exactly as he had predicted.

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    Don Pesci

    Don Pesci is a political columnist of long standing, about 40 years, who has written for various state newspapers, among them The Journal Inquirer, the Waterbury Republican American, the New London Day, the Litchfield County Times, the Torrington Register Citizen and other Register Citizen papers. He maintains a blog, among the oldest of its kind in Connecticut, which serves as a repository and archive, for his columns; there are approximately 3,000 entrees in Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State, virtually all of them political columns stretching back to 2004. He also appears once a week Wednesdays on 1080 WTIC Newstalk radio with Will Marotti.

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