King Malloy and his insulting tax rebates

If I could give a legislator-of-the-month award to people who represent us in Hartford it would go this month, without question, to Rep. Ted Moukawsher of Groton.

Moukawsher bravely bucked his party this week and became the only Democrat on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee to vote against the governor's election-year tax refund.

The refund plan is a big cog in the now-humming re-election campaign machine of Gov. Dannel Malloy, who is planning to spend some of the state's new "surplus" on individual tax rebates of $55.

This is an election-year gimmick so transparent as a grab for votes that it is insulting.

It's a scheme that in the end will only give back a pittance of what the governor has already wrested from voters in the largest tax hike in the state's history.

It is a bit like a mugger giving back a handful of coins to someone after grabbing their wallet. And we're supposed to say thank you.

Of course it is not any version of real tax reform that would actually lower the amount of money the state takes out of our paychecks every week. Nor is it a reflection of meaningful spending reforms in which the governor has shrunk the state's bloated bureaucracy.

Not only that, but fiscal analysts who know the state budget well suggest that foul fiscal winds already blowing portend the possibility of another tax hike, once the election is safely over.

Don't take this just from me or legislator-of-the-month Moukawsher.

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, also a Democrat, warned the governor in a letter this week that the Fiscal Year 2014 surplus is the result of one-time revenue gains, a tax-amnesty program and additional income tax revenue from taxpayers' gains in a hot stock market.

"Finally, (state budget analysts) have estimated budget shortfalls beginning in Fiscal Year 2016 if current policies remain unchanged," the comptroller wrote in his letter to the governor.

Of course the governor knows that. But it's not what the king wants to hear, as he directs his court to sweep some crumbs off the table, to keep the rabble happy.

Moukawsher suggested he would find it hard to go home and sell the tax refund gimmick to his constituents. OK, he didn't actually call it a gimmick.

He said the money should be put aside to offset a deficit projected to be as much as $1 billion in 2016.

"And I can't in good conscience say we have money to spend when we have been in a very precarious situation," the state representative from Groton said.

Of course Republicans on the committee also spoke against the idea of candidate Malloy issuing refund checks at the same time budget analysts are warning of a looming deficit.

But they were ignored. No doubt the governor thinks he will be able to roll over them again, the next time he needs to increase taxes.

In the end, I think most voters may be smarter than the governor gives them credit for.

I suspect that, when those rebate checks finally arrive in the mail, as the election season heats up, most will take them for what they are, a cynical bribe, no less unseemly than handing out money at the polls.

This is the opinion of David Collins

d.collins@theday.com

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