CHRIS POWELL: How long will Gov. Lamont hold the line on state taxes?

Published on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 20:51

For months the far-left faction of the Democratic caucuses in the General Assembly, which controlled the legislature this year, sought to raise taxes all over the place and especially on the wealthy and business. The party's leader, Governor Lamont – while derided by lefties as a blue-blooded business magnate – is usually pretty leftist himself, at least with the politically correct posturing, but he blocked those tax increases, since state government is rolling in emergency federal money.

Last week the governor got some vindication as he announced three major business arrivals for Connecticut.

Tobacco company Philip Morris International, which claims to be evolving from tobacco to electronic cigarettes, said it will move its headquarters from New York City to a site in Fairfield County yet to be selected, bringing 200 jobs. For once a business is coming to Connecticut without getting a bribe from state government.

Cigarettes are not the most noble business, but at the behest of the far-left Democrats in the legislature Connecticut is not just purporting to legalize marijuana, contrary to federal law, but also getting into the business itself with licensing, regulation, and, of course, taxing. Also at the behest of the far-left Democrats, state government is legalizing and entering the sports betting business in the same hope of making a lot of money.

Since marijuana and gambling aren't the most noble businesses either, nobody in Connecticut should be sneering at Philip Morris.

The company will pay its business and property taxes and its employees will pay their income taxes, and, since most of them are highly paid, their income taxes will be greater than the taxes paid by those who clamor for higher taxes in the name of “equity.”

The second business arrival announced by the governor last week was that of financial technology company iCapital, which will open an office in Greenwich, bringing as many as 200 jobs, also likely to be high-paying. If the company achieves the planned level of employment in two years, it will qualify for $2.94 million in subsidies from state government. Such bribes are always objectionable but iCapital's will amount to less than $15,000 per job even as state government often has paid far more.

The third business arrival announced by the governor last week was that of ITT Inc., which will move its headquarters from White Plains, NY, to Stamford, bringing 57 jobs for a bribe of $2 million, or $35,000 per job.

Those subsidies are awful but would Philip Morris, iCapital, and ITT be coming to Connecticut if the far-left Democrats had gotten their way on taxes a few weeks ago? That's unlikely. The companies still are taking a big chance by coming to Connecticut, since state government's huge chronic deficits will reappear when the emergency federal money expires in two years and state government's grossly underfunded pension obligations remain burdensome.

If a Republican is elected governor in 2022, new taxes probably will be avoided. If Lamont is re-elected, the far left in his party will press him hard again to raise taxes, and as the federal money runs out, resisting the far left won't be as easy for him.

But Connecticut's Republicans share the blame for the state's high taxes and weak economy.

For the Republicans have not been very good at articulating the big policy choices. While proposing alternatives risks controversy, the state can't be restored without it.

And too many Connecticut Republicans have stuck with former President Donald Trump, who, while often right about policy, was almost always appalling in his demeanor. Last year Trumpism demolished what had been the growing Republican strength in the General Assembly, as Republicans were defeated even in Republican districts. At least with Democratic state Sen. Alex Kasser resigning last week, her Greenwich-based district likely will return a Republican to the Senate in a special election soon – if Trump can stay out of the campaign.

Trump won't be on the ballot during the state election next year but Connecticut Democrats will run against him all the same. For Trumpism is never going to carry the state. But a Republican platform might gain some votes – if Connecticut Republicans can even remember what a platform is.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Column on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 20:51. Updated: Wednesday, 30 June 2021 20:54.