We heard a lot about how mad the public is about the budget standoff, but Ted Mann says it isn’t actually true:
As legislators prepare for an anticipated vote on a Democratic budget later this week as time runs out on the 2009 fiscal year, some local lawmakers said the reaction by many of their constituents to the standoff between the majority party and Gov. M. Jodi Rell has been one of relative understanding, given the massive challenges the state faces to balance its books.
And while those dependent on state grants and aid, especially city and town leaders, have seethed at the slow pace of negotiations, the state has not been gripped by the generalized rage that accompanied the crisis to which the current one is most often compared: the 1991 deficit that led the legislature and Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. to impose an income tax.
To put it all in perspective, the tax protests began about a month after Gov. Weicker, the last non-Republican to govern the state, called for the income tax in February of 1991. 200 demonstrators gathered at the first one, followed by many many more. I found this interesting description of protesters from October 1991:
Some people pinned teabags to their clothes; others carried axes. One individual donned a skeleton outfit.
What sounds like an early Halloween party was actually a crowd of more than 40,000 seething Connecticut citizens who converged on the State House lawn in Hartford Saturday, yelling, whistling, and demanding that Gov. Lowell Weicker repeal the state’s first income tax.
Between shouts of “Ax the Tax,” and “Repeal, repeal,” the riled group accused Governor Weicker, an independent, of stealing from the working class. The potpourri of people – black, white, blue-collar, and white-collar – booed him when he arrived at the capital. Teabag-wearers – signifying the colonists who protested the British tax on tea at the Boston Tea Party in 1773 – carried signs reading “Taxation without representation.” (Spaid)
40,000. It’s hard to imagine, now. The comparison to the recent national “tea party” protests is striking–except that those rallies didn’t exactly manage to turn out 40,000 in Hartford. Conservatives knew how to do populism back in the 1990s. Compared with that rally, the recent rallies seem like echoes.
As for the budget, we’ll probably see a budget that has some mix of tax increases and spending cuts, though the Democrats are skittish enough that the cuts may be deeper, and the tax increases smaller, than they really want. It’ll pass, the governor will sign it, and life will go on.
At this point it would take an awful lot to really get more than just a narrow slice of people up in arms about what’s happening in state government. Agree or disagree with the tax protesters of the early 1990s, they were at least following along.
Mann, Ted. “As Budget Fight Drags On, Public Is Mad As … Well ….” The Day 21 June, 2009.
Spaid, Elizabeth Levitan. “Weicker Gets His Income Tax, But Citizens Fight It.” Christian Science Monitor 8 October, 1991.