Costs a lot of postage to buy votes

This September, the State of Connecticut, (Dannel P. Malloy, Prop.), will be mailing checks of $55 or $110 to 2.1 million state residents, which, by the sheerest of coincidences, is also the number of registered voters we have in the state.

And what better way is there for a candidate for an office like governor, say, to call attention to himself with all these voters before the election than by giving them something nice, like money? Hard as it is to believe, money has played a major role in past elections and is even known to have been used to buy votes.

Now, no one thinks you can buy 2.1 million votes with 2.1 million checks or that a governor running for re-election, for example, would have his name on the checks, but might he not have his name on a note enclosed with the checks? After all, governors have their names on all those highways they didn't build.

A check for $55 or $110 could make a nice impression on a few hundred or few thousand voters who may not have voted last time and may look more kindly on the guy who sent the check than the guy running against him, who didn't send a check.

Only a bit more than half of the registered voters went to the polls when Malloy was elected and since that election was decided by 6,000 votes out of more than a million cast, you can't deny what they say about every vote - or few thousand votes - counting.

That's why some cynics consider the governor's plan to give $155 million of an unexpected $500 million surplus back to the taxpayers nothing more than an election year gimmick and a rather blatant one at that.

The Malloy camp points out that it's merely doing the right thing for a highly taxed populace.

And let's not forget that the governor's idea to send the $55 to every individual earning up to $200,000 a year and $110 to every couple earning up to $400,000 has been hailed as "good public policy" by a resounding 23 percent of the state's voters in the most recent Quinnipiac Poll.

But why, you may ask, will they be waiting until September to send out the checks? Would it have anything to do with the old saying about the voters not paying attention to a November election until after Labor Day?

Ben Barnes, the state's budget director, explained at a finance committee hearing last week that the checks won't be going out until September because the comptroller doesn't close the books until then. I don't know exactly what that means but maybe the state can't spend money when "the books" aren't closed.

When the books are closed and the checks do go out, they'll be going in the mail - at an extra cost of $1.72 million for postage and handling. Recipients won't be able to ask for an electronic deposit to be made directly to their bank accounts, as they were encouraged to do with refunds on their most recent state income taxes.

The direct deposit has been promoted by the Department of Revenue Services in the recent past as the fastest, most efficient way to get a refund but a little check for $55 or even $110 could end up in the accounts of people earning up to $200,000 or $400,000 without them even noticing.

We couldn't have that happen to some voter's tax rebate, could we?

And there's one more little secret about the tax rebates. They aren't really tax rebates. Some of the checks are going to people who don't pay any state income taxes and therefore have no taxes to be rebated.

But the recipients are more important than taxpayers.

They're voters.

Dick Ahles is a retired journalist from Simsbury. He writes a monthly column for The Day.


Loading comments...
Hide Comments