The New Year, Same Old, Same Old

January 2, 2023
Image by Matt Stoller

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In a recent picture and story, Governor Ned Lamont is shown, pen in hand, signing a new law “legalizing the recreational use of marijuana on June 22, 2001, at the state Capitol in Hartford.”

A slew of new laws are due to take effect in the New Year. They include a new truck tax and a pay raise for indigent lawmakers. The new tax on large tractor trailer trucks, proponents say, will fix crumbling highways. Critics, mostly Republican lawmakers, rightly insist the truck tax “will be passed down to consumers.”

A new bill will erase criminal records “for those convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana,” as well as those convicted for some felonies that are “slated to be erased in the coming months as part of the ‘clean slate’’ law that was passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature.”

Concerning salary increases for public employees, legislators have adopted judicial salaries as a baseline.

“The base pay for rank-and-file legislators will be $40,000 per year, up from $28,000 for a job that is considered part-time but requires work year-round,” according to the news story.

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“The governor’s salary will jump to more than $225,000 to reach the level of the chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court … Constitutional officers like the state attorney general, treasurer, comptroller, and secretary of the state will earn nearly $190,000 — to match the level of Superior Court judges.” And, perhaps to spare those enriched by the salary increases the trouble of applying to the General Assembly and the electorate for future tax costs, the paper notes that a key provision in the bill “is that the salaries will now increase automatically [emphasis mine] through a federal formula under the Employment Cost Index — in the same way that Social Security benefits increase without a vote each year by the U.S. Congress.”

The “automatic increase” in salaries and benefits will spare public officials the necessity of regular submittals to the General Assembly for salary and benefit increases, as well as predictable intermittent backlash from hard pressed taxpayers, whose salary increases, if any, will not keep pace with rampant inflation, essentially a political tax.

Another post-election story advises, “Gov. New [sic] Lamont will not take a salary for the job for the next four years, continuing what he did during his first term, according to Anthony Anthony, the governor’s director of communications.

The Governor’s new communication director is quoted in the story to this effect: “Just as he did during his first four-year term, Governor Ned Lamont has chosen to continue declining a salary from the state when he begins his second term early next year. The governor is grateful for the trust the people of Connecticut have given to him and he looks forward to the start of a new term.”

And who could help but notice this line: “As he has done in other years, the governor shielded his wife’s income by filing a married-filing-separately return, an option used by about 5% of American taxpayers. His wife, Annie Lamont, is a successful venture capitalist.”

A cynic – there are too few of them in Connecticut – might point out that millionaire governors can well afford to decline piddling salaries.

“Lamont’s adjusted gross income was $54 million in 2021,” the story points out, “a nearly seven-fold increase over the previous year, driven by $52.7 million in capital gains, according to tax records released in October.”

Beyond a certain point, practical politics draws a winding sheet around the assets of millionaire politicians. The greater part of Lamont’s yearly income is derived from Annie Lamont’s strenuous but hidden efforts as a “successful venture capitalist.”

One wonders whether a prohibition of self-financed campaigns might be a popular issue for Republicans, the silent minority, not by choice, in Connecticut politics. Public financing, after all, is an attempt to “level the political playing field”; that is, to make the financing of campaigns “equitable,” lately a magic incantatory word in Progressive politics. And this effort is frustrated by gerrymandering, out-of-the-campaign-box PAC contributions, and the self-financing of campaigns by deep-pocketed millionaires like the Lamonts. One would suppose that Connecticut’s postmodern progressive Democrats – who would, if they could, eat all millionaires, or drive them out of state, as St. Patrick once drove the snakes from Ireland – would favor such an egalitarian proposal.

The New Year, everyone knows, will be much like the old year – more spending, more taxes, more bills, both legislative and household, and nearly no contrarian journalism to speak of in the state. With an adulatory media genuflecting at the feet of the Democrat hegemony in Connecticut, does the governor really need the services of Anthony Anthony?

Same old, same old, only more of it.

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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