Governor Lamont and state Attorney General William Tong, both Democrats, are pressing in federal court to restore a lucrative tax break for the rich. But somehow they are escaping criticism from those in their party who clamor for taxing the rich more.
The governor and attorney general have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the appeal of Connecticut and other states that claim that it is unconstitutional for the federal tax code to limit to $10,000 the annual deductibility of state and local taxes — the SALT cap.
The SALT cap may have been the only liberal change to the federal tax code enacted during Donald Trump’s administration. Anyone who pays more than $10,000 a year in state income and local property taxes is doing pretty well. Indeed, most of the benefits of lifting the SALT cap would go to the very wealthy.
Lamont and Tong claim that the SALT cap violates state’s rights — that it interferes with Connecticut’s tax system. But it doesn’t. The cap just reduces the federal government’s subsidy to high-tax states.
Acknowledging as much, a federal district court and a federal appeals court have already rejected Connecticut’s case and the Supreme Court almost certainly will do so too.
The governor and attorney general claim that the SALT cap was “politically motivated,” since the high-tax states are Democratic and the cap was imposed by a Republican national administration. But of course nearly everything in government is politically motivated to some extent, political motivations are not unconstitutional, and many principled Democrats acknowledge that the SALT cap is fairer than the previous policy, unlimited deductibility of state and local taxes.
The Lamont administration’s appeal of its defeat in the two lower federal courts is politically motivated too — doubly so.
First, the administration wants to prevent Connecticut’s high-tax policy from aggravating the state’s many wealthy residents who lately have been voting and contributing Democratic, especially in Fairfield County, where many people find Trump repugnant and may not vote Republican again while the party is in thrall to the former president.
Since the SALT cap makes state and local taxes more burdensome, wealthy people who have lost the federal deduction may start resenting high state and local taxes more. If Republicans can free themselves of Trump, those people may transfer their disdain to the special interests that consume so much state and local government revenue and are the core of the Democratic Party in Connecticut.
And second, with its appeal against the SALT cap the Lamont administration rides an issue that might rile up those Democratic special interests as a state election approaches. By pressing the appeal, the administration tells those special interests that it is striving behind the scenes to protect high taxes so that those special interests remain well-compensated, even as the governor, when being watched more closely, tries to restrain taxes.
The SALT cap also makes hypocrites of Connecticut’s members of Congress, all Democrats who advocate repeal of the cap even as they complain about other tax breaks for the rich. But if a federal tax break for the rich helps keep Connecticut a high-tax state more able to sustain the Democratic Party’s army, the delegation will suspend its supposed principles.
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SKIP ETHNIC STUDIES: Connecticut law requires public high schools to offer a course in Black and Latino studies, and the other day two students at Trinity College in Hartford wrote an essay for the Connecticut Mirror calling for schools to be required to offer a course in Asian-American studies as well.
While there is much to be learned in these subjects, they are best incorporated into U.S. history courses. Separated, ethnic studies will crowd out general history, which is already neglected.
And while the law requires high schools to offer the Black and Latino studies courses, it doesn’t require students to take them. Presumably it would be the same with an Asian-American studies course — more politically correct but oblivious posturing even as most Connecticut high school students, enjoying social promotion, graduate without ever mastering English and math.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.