That ‘Transformational’ Budget Really Won’t Change Much at All

Some small good things were done by the session of the General Assembly just concluded, but the best things about the session may have been what it didn’t do. That is, it did not raise taxes much — mainly on heavy trucks — and thus did not disadvantage Connecticut more relative to other states and did not give the state’s taxpaying residents more reason to consider leaving for less expensive jurisdictions. The large far-left faction of the Democratic legislative caucuses wanted to raise taxes sharply on the rich, but with the state rolling in emergency money from the federal government,

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Can UConn Really Economize? And Social Promotion Wins

Congratulations may be in order for the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees for discovering, upon the abrupt resignation of Thomas C. Katsouleas after less than two years on the job, that the university doesn’t really need its own president. For last week the board announced that Andrew Agwunobi, chief executive of the UConn Health Center in Farmington, will serve simultaneously as president of the whole university for the time being, continuing to receive his $709,000 annual salary at the health center while the board negotiates his pay for doing both jobs. Agwunobi’s appointment suggests two things. First, that Agwunobi

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UConn Prez’s Resignation is a Spectacular Embarrassment

Long having been shameless because the governor and General Assembly never call it to account, the University of Connecticut probably won’t show any embarrassment over last week’s abrupt resignation of its president, Thomas C. Katsouleas, who was not even two years into the job. But Connecticut might be mortified. Of course no official explanation has been given, but news reports say Katsouleas quickly alienated the university’s Board of Trustees by announcing major initiatives without the board’s approval. Having eagerly danced to every politically correct tune that was played for him on campus, Katsouleas shouldn’t be missed — and indeed as

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Should Government Take Over the Nursing Home Business?

Nursing home workers in Connecticut long have been essentially state government employees because most patients are technically indigent and their care is financed by state government’s Medicaid program — for nearly $1.2 billion per year, half reimbursed by the federal government. The euphemism for this is “estate planning.” When people who have assets reach a certain age they are advised to squirrel their assets away where government can’t get at them — reliable family members, trusts, and such — so if someone needs round-the-clock care, he can go on welfare. It’s a demeaning system and no longer saves much money

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Big Dreams Distract Dems; And All Could Be ‘Doctors’

Democrats in the General Assembly are busy with big plans for transforming Connecticut. Though state government is rolling in federal cash, the Democrats want to tax business and the wealthy a lot more. They want to overthrow suburban zoning. They want state government to start selling medical insurance to small businesses. They would legalize and commercialize marijuana and erase thousands of criminal records. They seek a vast expansion of state-sanctioned gambling. But that’s all in the future. What Democratic legislators don’t want to do is take responsibility for running Connecticut in the present. Instead once again the Democratic legislators want

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Eventually We’ll All be Paying and Young Car Thieves Laugh

Nearly everyone except government employees has suffered financial losses during the virus epidemic, and since those losses were caused more by government’s closure of much of the economy than by the epidemic itself, everyone wants reimbursement from the government. There’s some justice in this, especially in the requests from businesses in Connecticut for state government to use its federal epidemic relief money to cover the $700 million the state borrowed from the federal government to pay the huge and unexpected unemployment benefits claimed during the epidemic. Otherwise unemployment insurance taxes on businesses may have to be increased for years, weakening

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Lamont Probably Won’t Mind Denunciation as a Moderate

Many liberal Democratic officials around the country and especially in the Northeast, including Governor Lamont, are looking hypocritical for urging President Biden to help repeal the federal government’s limit on the deductibility of state and local taxes — the “SALT” tax deduction cap. Liberal Democrats usually advocate more progressive taxation — that is, higher tax rates on higher incomes — and progressive taxation is exactly what the cap on SALT deductions is. It limits to $10,000 the deduction taken by federal income taxpayers for the state and local taxes they pay. Anyone who pays more than $10,000 altogether in state income and municipal property taxes is probably doing well financially. Liberal and conservative tax analysts agree

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Slush Funding Will Preserve State Government’s Excesses

With as much as $4 billion in discretionary largesse about to descend on Connecticut’s state and municipal governments and school systems, economizing and improving services to the public will be removed from the agenda for a long time. These slush funds can only worsen the excesses and exploitation in government, even as the Yankee Institute’s extraordinary investigative reporter, Marc Fitch, has noted some big excesses this month. Fitch reported that another 62 managers at the state Transportation Department are being permitted to unionize though their annual salaries range from $86,000 to $149,000, quite apart from their luxurious fringe benefits. According

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DeLauro, Chief of Staff Show What ‘Public Service’ Means

Congratulations to one of Connecticut’s forever members of Congress, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of New Haven, for teaching the country a wonderful political science lesson. Having ascended to the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee, DeLauro has just revived the infamous practice of putting “earmarks” in the federal budget — requirements that funds that ordinarily would be appropriated for general purposes be reserved for patronage projects desired by congressmen. Now DeLauro is forwarding her chief of staff, Leticia Mederos, to a national law and government relations firm, Clark Hill, whose office on Pennsylvania Avenue is within walking distance of

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Gambling Expansion Plan Could Be Worse, Or Better

Gambling and intoxicating drugs mainly transfer wealth from the many to the few and the poor to the rich, so it is sad that state government is striving to get into the business of sports betting, internet gambling, and marijuana dealing. That’s how hungry state government always is for more money. Even so, Governor Lamont may deserve some credit for the deal he seems about to achieve with Connecticut’s two casino Indian tribes. The tribes long have claimed that the casino gambling duopoly state government conferred on them in the 1990s also gives them exclusivity on sports betting and internet

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Lamont Has Earned a Break

Everyone is entitled to be sick and tired of the virus epidemic, and no one is more entitled than Governor Lamont, whose administration has been consumed by it. Most people were happy with the administration’s handling of the epidemic until this week, when the governor changed policy on prioritizing the long-awaited vaccinations. Instead of giving priority to the elderly, classes of employees deemed essential, and people with some particular medical vulnerability, the governor decided that it would be better to vaccinate people simply by age, from oldest to youngest. This angered people who were getting near the front of the

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Teachers of Your Memories Aren’t Necessarily Today’s

Nearly everyone will forever remember some admired or even beloved teachers whose insight, enthusiasm, and caring pointed students in the right direction. Of course there were and are some mediocre, incompetent, and even malicious teachers too, but they are easily forgotten. So even as society becomes more fractious and angry, there is still a cult of respect around the teaching profession. But that cult may not last much longer as teacher unions, most notoriously in big cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, but also in most states, including Connecticut, obstruct normal school operations amid the virus epidemic. The

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Legislative Dems Plotting to Bypass Lamont on Taxes

With Governor Lamont discouraging “broad-based” tax increases, many fellow Democrats in the General Assembly are planning to raise taxes around the edges. Most industrious may be Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney of New Haven. Looney would impose a special state property tax on expensive homes, a “mansion tax,” the revenue to be transferred to his hometown and other troubled cities. Looney also proposes rewriting the formula for state money to municipalities so as to give cities more and suburbs less for properties exempt from property taxes. These proposals and others are based on the premise that the cities

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To Defeat Exclusive Zoning, Stop Failing at Poverty

Maybe Connecticut should be grateful to the Desegregate CT organization for having just provided a map detailing how local zoning regulations make it almost impossible to build multifamily housing in most of the state. But didn’t nearly everybody already know that in principle? After all, the roots of exclusive zoning in the state go back to colonial times, when no one was permitted to live in the earliest towns without being approved at a town meeting as an “admitted inhabitant” and anyone who tried to move in without approval was “warned out.” Then as now the objective of this selectivity

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What Did Gov. Lamont Mean by Failure of Tax Increases?

Addressing an internet meeting of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association a week ago, Governor Lamont made the most remarkable statement of his two years in office. “I have no interest in broad-based tax increases,” Lamont said. “Every governor, Republican or Democrat since, or including, Lowell Weicker has done that and it did not solve the problem.” Of course a few months ago the governor signed into law a broad-based tax increase that took effect three weeks ago: the half-percent increase in the state income tax that is to finance a program of paid family and medical leave, self-insurance that

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Military-Industrial Complex OK With State’s Delegation

In his farewell address 60 years ago President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against what he called “unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” Since he was a military hero, perhaps only Eisenhower could give such a warning during the Cold War without risking denunciation as a communist. But Eisenhower’s warning has never been heeded, and President Biden, with his nominee for defense secretary, is essentially proclaiming the victory of the military-industrial complex. The new president’s nominee is retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, who upon leaving the Army a few years ago joined the Board of Directors of

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Early Pension is $117,000; and New Hidden Tax Coming

Last week this column examined the government pension racket in Connecticut through the example of the “retirement” of New Haven Police Chief Tony Reyes, who is only 49 and is giving up his city salary of $170,000 to become police chief at Quinnipiac University in adjacent Hamden. Since New Haven City Hall needed a week before it could provide an estimate of the annual pension Reyes immediately will begin receiving, last week’s column surmised it might amount to $80,000. That was low. The city’s budget office now estimates Reyes’ annual pension at $117,000. While Quinnipiac is a nonprofit institution exempt

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New Haven Chief ‘Retires’ at 49 to Pension Bonanza

Everyone agrees that Tony Reyes has been a great police chief in New Haven, having been appointed in March 2019 after nearly two decades of rising through the ranks of the police department. But the city will lose him in a few weeks as he becomes police chief at Quinnipiac University next door in Hamden. This is being called a retirement, but it is that only technically. In fact it is part of an old racket in Connecticut’s government employee pension system, an abuse of taxpayers. Typically police personnel qualify to collect full state government and municipal pensions after 20

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Cheerleading by Governor Belies Damage to Economy

Few may begrudge Governor Lamont the cheerfulness of his “state of the state” address upon the opening of the General Assembly this week. As he noted, since last March Connecticut has produced much heroism in confronting the virus epidemic. That heroism includes the governor’s own. For nobody runs for governor to preside over the destruction of the state’s economy amid mass sickness and death. The epidemic has been overwhelming, and even Lincoln acknowledged being overwhelmed in office. “I claim not to have controlled events,” the president wrote, “but confess plainly that events have controlled me.” They have controlled the governor

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Legislators Must Now Share Authority During Pandemic

After a cowardly absence of nine months, the General Assembly reconvenes this week. Though legislators may not recognize it, the first question facing them is whether their new session is to be one of substance or merely a formality. For Governor Lamont has been ruling by emergency decree since the virus epidemic began in March, and with the approval of legislative leaders he has extended that power until Feb. 9. If the emergency is allowed to end then, what is essentially monarchy will end too, democratic government will resume, political responsibility will be widely shared, and legislators will have to

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Looting By Parent Company Took Courant’s Home Away

Employees of Connecticut’s largest newspaper, the Hartford Courant, cleaned out their desks the other day as the newspaper left the building at 285 Broad St. where it had operated for 70 years. It was well reported that the newspaper will continue publishing as its employees work from home, as they have done since March; that the Springfield Republican will do the printing; and that the Courant doesn’t know if it will have an office again. But why the newspaper gave up its offices has not been well reported, and it is not just because of the virus epidemic. It’s also

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Equality in School Spending is Easy — And Would Fail Too

When the first legal challenge to Connecticut’s system of financing local education was filed 45 years ago, the complaint was inequality — that since school finance was based on the local property tax, rich towns spent much more per pupil than poor towns and had more successful schools. This correlation was misconstrued to mean that per-pupil spending determined student performance. The complaint of inequality remains the big complaint today, and during a recent internet conference call a group of ministers from Connecticut’s cities badgered Governor Lamont about it. But the ministers and others clamoring for equality in per-pupil spending don’t

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Snow Obsession isn’t News; More Taxes Aren’t ‘Reform’

Government in Connecticut is often mediocre but it usually excels at clearing the roads during and after a snowstorm like last week’s. Maybe this is because while some failures are easily overlooked or concealed, there is no hiding impassable roads. They risk political consequences. So people in Connecticut can have confidence that even the heaviest accumulations will not cause catastrophe — that their road crews will defeat the snow before anyone starves to death. Then what explains the obsession of the state’s news organizations, especially the television stations, with celebrating the obvious when there is going to be snow? First

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State’s Tax, School Policies Produce 40 Years of Failure

Now that the Democratic majorities in the General Assembly are increasing as a result of last month’s election, visions of sugarplums dance again in the heads of those who think that “property tax reform” and spending more on municipal schools can save Connecticut’s cities and their poor students. It’s a reminder of the popular definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Of course that could double as the definition of persistence — persistence being, as Coolidge said, the prerequisite for problem solving. But even for the persistent there comes a time to

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Connecticut’s Big Problem Isn’t Higher But Lower Ed

As was inscribed on the pedestal of the statue of college founder Emil Faber in the movie “Animal House,” “Knowledge is good.” But knowledge can be overpriced, as the growing clamor about college student loan forgiveness soon may demonstrate. President-elect Joe Biden and Democrats in the new Congress will propose various forms of forgiveness, and this will have the support of Connecticut’s congressional delegation, all Democrats. Student loan debt is huge, estimated at $1.6 trillion, and five Connecticut colleges were cited last week by the U.S. Education Department for leaving the parents of their students with especially high debt. There

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With Journalism Faltering, Courant Prepares for Sale

America’s oldest continuously published newspaper is now the country’s newest paper without an office of its own. The Hartford Courant announced last week that it is terminating its lease on the building it has occupied for 70 years just across Broad Street from the state Capitol, the building from which the paper once dominated the news of state government and all Connecticut. The Courant’s employees will keep working from home, as many journalists have been doing during the virus epidemic. The Courant already had arranged to shutter its press and have its printing done by the Springfield Republican in Massachusetts,

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State Just Has to Tough it Out and Empty Trains Won’t Help

While Governor Lamont remarked the other day that state government doesn’t have enough money to rescue every business suffering from the virus epidemic and the curtailment of commerce, most people think the federal government has infinite money and can and should make everyone whole. Sharing that view, Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal this week went to the railroad station in West Haven to join Catherine Rinaldi, president of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, in calling for an emergency $12 billion federal appropriation for the MTA, which runs the Metro-North commuter railroad line from New Haven to New York City. Metro-North has

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Epidemic Ideas Miss Target; UConn Evades on Race

Again last week most of the coronavirus-related deaths in Connecticut — 70 percent — occurred in nursing homes. What was the policy response? The teacher unions demanded that all schools terminate in-person classes and convert to “remote learning,” which for many students– those who need schools most — means no learning, and which for most other students means much less learning. And New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker called for the state to retreat to stricter closure of commerce. These responses were plainly irrelevant to what has always been the epidemic’s primary threat — to the frail elderly and the chronically

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Marijuana Legislation Suggests House Dems Already High

With Connecticut sure to struggle with the virus epidemic for many more months and state government sinking deeper into the financial disaster caused by the epidemic and government’s response to it, it is amazing that the most urgent objective of the enlarged Democratic majority in the General Assembly is to legalize marijuana. It’s another trivial distraction for legislators, like the renewed campaign of state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, to compel schools to teach American Indian history when they can’t even manage to teach the language students are supposed to learn everything in. Why the urgency about marijuana? The drug is

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Overlooked Telling Details Invite Virus Policy Rethink

Amid the growing panic fanned by news organizations about the rebound in the virus epidemic, last week’s telling details were largely overlooked. First, most of the recent “virus-associated” deaths in Connecticut again have been those of frail elderly people in nursing homes. Second, while dozens of students at the University of Connecticut at Storrs recently were been found infected, most showed no symptoms and none died or was even hospitalized. Instead all were waiting it out or recovering in their rooms or apartments. And third, the serious case rate — new virus deaths and hospitalizations as a percentage of new

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