Cutting taxes and state revenue could revive true liberalism in Connecticut | Chris Powell
Everyone in state government seems to like these tax cuts — first the temporary suspension of Connecticut’s 25-cent-per-gallon gas tax, then a week of sales tax waiving. on most clothing purchases. The public will appreciate it too.
But how happy will everyone be on July 1, as campaigns for Governor and General Assembly heat up, when the gas tax returns to the pumps? Even if the world is at peace and gas prices have fallen considerably by then, we will not be able to hide the sharp increase in taxation. Inflation, which may now be double the government’s heavily massaged official rate of 8%, could also come down by July, but it is likely to remain painful and the return of the gas tax could be doubly feeling.
Meanwhile, the state government will still have enough money to afford to extend the gas tax suspension until Wednesday, November 9, for example, the day after the election.
Extending the suspension beyond July might help some campaigns, but it might also lead people to think that cutting taxes indefinitely isn’t so bad.
Four years ago, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, who is expected to be reappointed this year, was ridiculed by most people and right-thinking journalists for trying to repeal the income tax of the state. But if Stefanowski was a political neophyte, his idea still resonated and he came much closer to victory than expected, since Connecticut is a heavily Democratic state.
Four years ago, hundreds of thousands of ignorant people seemed to think that the state income tax was not as much of a boon as their superiors thought, and even thought that the state government -even was not the overall blessing that the tax implied. Many ignoramuses voted for Stefanowski even though they understood the impracticality of his position. They thought his position would produce only limited results, but results nonetheless.
Income tax repeal is not part of Stefanowski’s platform this year. Instead, he proposes to reduce the sales tax, which at 6.35% is both high and regressive, that is, heavier on low-income people. So the sales tax cut might appeal to liberals, if liberalism in Connecticut hadn’t sunk into a mere rationalization of policies and programs that don’t achieve their nominal goals but at least prop up the payroll of the government.
In addition to being “progressive” – by favoring low-income people – cutting some taxes indefinitely rather than simply suspending them for a few months or a week would have a big advantage. Because the reduction in its revenues pushes the government to become more efficient, and the reduction in taxes makes it more difficult to raise them. Unlike the one-time revenue repeal, tax reduction can be done gradually and steadily, making it easier for the government to adjust to efficiency.
Reducing taxes gradually but steadily could also make those most attuned to grave but unmet human needs into the most vigorous enemies of inefficiency and excess in government. In other words, cutting taxes could revive true liberalism.
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POLITICAL BLACKMAIL: Should personal tax returns be kept confidential outside of court proceedings? (But of course not for Donald Trump, against whom everything is going.)
At least four of Connecticut’s most liberal Democratic state lawmakers — Representatives Josh Elliott of Hamden, Kate Farrar of West Hartford, Jack Hennessy of Bridgeport and Michael Winkler of Vernon — would end the secrecy. They introduced legislation to allow eight legislative leaders to obtain individual tax returns from the state Department of Tax Services, supposedly to help lawmakers study Connecticut’s tax system.
Several legislative leaders who would have access to tax returns through the bill oppose its disclosure provision. But Senate Speaker Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, is sympathetic. He says sufficient confidentiality could be maintained if certain identifying information on returns were redacted.
Disagreeing, House Republican Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, notes that even with names removed, many returns could be identifiable from their details, such as sources of income.
The legislation seems intended primarily to facilitate political blackmail.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer.