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Failure on lunch pail issues of gas tax and jobs

Ned Lamont went to Washington last week. He visited the White House, with whose occupant he shares much in common, especially on the "lunch pail" issues of gas prices and jobs.

Biden's policies have already pushed gas prices to record seven-year highs. Lamont's gas price hikes are only an ambition right now, since the Connecticut General Assembly has not yet approved Lamont's proposed new gas tax, aka the multi-state Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) – emphasis on "yet."

All summer and early fall, Connecticut Democrats talked about convening a special session to approve TCI, yet they couldn't quite convince themselves to do so, perhaps because so few other states are on board – and voters in one may decide to jump off the TCI bandwagon next week. Another "yet."

"Yet" is the point. Voters in this week's local elections should keep in mind that General Assembly Democrats are watching. If local Democrats do well, Democrats in Hartford may gain the confidence to pass TCI.

For his part, Biden is taking rightful heat for high gas prices, since his anti-carbon policies are largely to blame. The day he took office, Biden cancelled the Keystone pipeline and froze oil and gas exploration leasing on federal lands. Six months later a petroleum shortage developed. Instead of releasing his strangle hold on domestic production, Biden begged OPEC and Russia to increase production. Fat chance! Apparently GHG emissions are OK, just so long as they don't come from burning American-produced carbon.

Since July, oil has jumped from about $60 a barrel to about $85 and gas prices have skyrocketed. Is Biden concerned? Just the opposite. He has been worried that his multi-trillion dollar Build Back Better bill with its anti-carbon provisions may not come together before his departure for the Glasgow climate summit.

He should worry about China, whose coal-fired power plants emit almost one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, while we emit less than one-seventh, having been on a decade-long decline based on our conversion from coal to natural gas.

Lamont governs a state which ranks worst on most financial/economic/tax metrics. Marvelously, Connecticut's gas prices and gas taxes are not (yet) the worst, with prices ranking 14th highest according to GasBuddy and gas taxes ranking 17th per the American Petroleum Institute. That's without TCI.

Lamont and the Democrats want you to believe that TCI is a "user fee." Who is not a user of gas? When everyone uses something from which the government extracts revenue, the revenue hit is most assuredly a tax.

Maybe Lamont discussed jobs with the White House. He should have. Both national and Connecticut job creation has stalled. Nationally, there are about 10 million job openings, about twice the number of Americans on unemployment rolls. A rare and puzzling anomaly.

National Democrats say workers aren't returning to work because of Covid fears, but, since mid-summer, unemployment has been the lowest in states with the lowest vaccination rates. In 20 states with a mid-July average of only 56% of adults over 18 vaccinated, the unemployment rate averaged 4.2% in September. In 20 states with a 76% average vaccination rate, unemployment averaged 5.5%.

Meanwhile, national Democrats want to extend trillions in new benefits without the work requirements that lone Democrat holdout Sen. Joe Manchin has been demanding. Why work?

Here in Connecticut, the jobs crisis is severe, but neither Lamont nor Democrats are talking about it.

Since February 2020, the state's workforce has contracted by about 115,000, or about 6%, and about 125,000 were officially unemployed last month. The combined 240,000 represent a worst-in-the-nation 12.5% of the state's pre-pandemic workforce. In the next-worst state, this percentage is only 10.2%.  Eighteen states have grown their workforces, and 44 states have lower unemployment rates.

What have Lamont and Democrat done about the jobs crisis? Good question with no apparent answer. Shouldn't there be an answer in such a calamitous situation?

The only dramatic thing on the radar is the Lamont administration's recent announcement that it is depositing an extra $1.6 billion this year and $1.0 billion next year into the state employee and the teacher retirement funds – together equal to the entire $2.6 billion in federal aid that the state has received under Biden's American Rescue Plan.

This may not be the only largesse lavished upon state employees. Lamont is negotiating a new contract with their unions. Connecticut state employees already enjoy among the most generous compensation of state employees in the 50 states. Who can forget that their 5.5% wage hike in July 2020 in the middle of the pandemic. Even Lamont said that was unfair.

If you like high gas prices, vote for Democrats. If you think Connecticut state employees should be paid like kings even while business owners can't find workers, vote for Democrats. Democrats have controlled this state since 1986, excepting only one two-year term when Republicans held the State Senate and could restrain Democrats.

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