Unlike lawmakers, the governor has shown morality and courage

Everybody can find lots to complain about in Governor Malloy's latest budget proposals. But they are the sort of things that have to be done if state government is to avoid confronting its many profoundly mistaken policy premises, from government labor policy to education to welfare. The governor knows that some of his proposals have no chance of passing the General Assembly, like the controversial eligibility restrictions on Medicare subsidies that Democratic and Republican legislators recently made a show of repealing, but he offered them anyway. 

The governor would increase the state income tax by repealing the $200 property tax credit against it. He would impose highway tolls and phased increases in the gasoline tax. Despite increasing concern that Connecticut is driving business away, he would raise corporation taxes, nullifying some of the gains corporations just got from the new federal tax law. The governor not only proposes to raise the cigarette tax again but also to impose bottle deposits on wine and liquor. He would increase the hotel room sales tax to 17 percent and apply the regular sales tax to nonprescription drugs. 

In the never-ending shell game that is medicine in Connecticut, the governor would cancel a planned tax cut for hospitals, which these days function less as health care providers and more as camouflage for the state Department of Revenue Services. 

On the brighter side, the governor would reduce financial aid to municipalities, which might induce some of them to extract concessions from their teacher unions. 

At least the governor has put specifics on the table with numbers attached to them, and many of those numbers are plausible. And what are the alternatives to his proposals? 

That is more than can be said for the grand bipartisan coalition in the General Assembly that produced the current state budget, which a few weeks after its enactment was already a quarter-billion dollars in deficit. The grand bipartisan coalition's budget also directed the governor to make discretionary spending cuts of about a billion dollars, cuts that the coalition declined to specify in the hope that the governor, not seeking re-election, would meekly take the blame for them. Of course the legislature did not have to hold public hearings on cuts it never had to specify. 

Malloy is widely considered to be a disastrous governor. A poll commissioned by a Democratic-leaning union and undertaken by a Democratic-leaning consulting firm reported this week that the governor is 12 points less popular here than President Trump, who seems loathed. But if, as the 1930s French socialist leader Leon Blum mused, morality is entirely the courage of making a choice, at least the governor has made his choices and has his morality and courage. 

What will the General Assembly have this session? With an election coming up soon, the legislature probably will have only another imaginary budget leading to an even bigger deficit next year. 


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