THE PRECIPICE: This session may define Connecticut’s identity for a generation
I’m back from a week in Cape Cod. During my stay, I read a book about Massachusetts by Jon Keller called “The Bluest State.” Combined with the ongoing budgetary disaster in California and the tragicomedy in the New York State Senate, it is nothing less than a warning and a blueprint for where Connecticut may be headed as a State.
Reading it this particular week was apropos. Indeed, today is Veto session day, and it is clear that if the Governor is overridden on issues such as Sustinet, our State will without question soon be lumped together with those states and other basket cases like New Jersey and Michigan.
Why so gloomy? I came here from New York six years ago this month, choosing Connecticut because it had the lowest combined tax rate in the tri-state area. As New York and New Jersey were increasingly taken hostage by civil-service unions, Connecticut could have become the destination of choice for both workers and employers who wished to remain in the region but to escape deficit insanity.
This opportunity still exists, but it is rapidly closing. In the face of a tortuous recession, which offered a rationale for evaluating public expenditures in the Nutmeg State, our Democratic majority in Hartford has pursued every liberal fantasy — universal free health care, higher business taxation and regulation, taxing the “rich”, abolishing the death penalty, and of course never laying off any government workers. Ever. Indeed, we are following these other sorry states over the liberal shibboleth cliff.
These state offer plenty of lessons as to where this leads. When Governors Pataki and Schwarzenegger dropped any pretension to conservatism and partnered with unions, the result was legislatures who saw deficits as just a necessary evil to be tolerated in the face of full governmental employment. Indeed, in these states, the government exists not so much “to promote the general welfare”, but rather as “the tax collector for the welfare state,” as media critics once dubbed the late-1970’s Democratic Party. In Massachusetts, Governor Romney’s universal health care bill has led his successor, Deval Patrick, to raise taxes each year since his election, as costs have far outpaced projections. (Big surprise.)
Meanwhile, in Michigan, entire towns are being bulldozed into “parkland,” parks for nobody, as millions of residents have abandoned that union paradise, which made it impossible to lay anyone off but also impossible to grow a business. New Jersey? A parasitic government class raises taxes on the “rich” to offset new spending and obscene government pensions, oblivious to the fact that thousands of wealthy residents have moved out of state. (Recent reports from Maryland indicate the same happened there after a “tax the rich” bonanza in that state.)
The point to take away is that it sounds real nice to be super-cozy with unions and to give people free goodies like health care and ritzy pensions, but only until it all has to be paid for.
Anybody who can do math could have foretold these crises in advance, but the various governors caved to political expedience. So far, Governor Rell has not. If the Republicans in Hartford hold out with her, and can form a base to avoid overturning this veto, it will be a sign — a clear sign that somebody in Hartford has read the news reports from Sacramento and Albany and Boston and declared, “Not here.”
If no brakes are applied, all of these scenarios can soon come to pass in Connecticut, and if they do, we will become just another welfare state, with productive residents voting with their feet to tax havens like Florida, South Carolina and Arizona. It wasn’t just the invention of air conditioning that led to the growth of the Sun Belt. No, two more aspects were crucial — Right to Work laws and no income taxes. Hartford, please take note.