The tax man cometh, and now we all wait for the state’s revenue totals. Welcome to what has become a grim tradition during budget season, when, if the last few years are any indication, we find out that we have even less money than we thought.
It’s the eternal, frustrating question: Connecticut has one of the highest tax burdens in the nation, and is one of the wealthiest states. Why the heck can’t we balance the state budget?
None of the answers are satisfying. Yes, the state overpromised on pensions and salaries, and yes, state employees and the unions that represent them have somewhat justifiably been unwilling to part with their bags of loot. And yes, we’re still feeling the after-effects of a financial crash that took place nine years ago.
Our economy is stagnant. Our population is aging. Bridges and roads need repair. Social services have been gutted. There’s no money for anything. So what do we do?
There are four reliable ways to get around budget deficits, and we’ve seen them all in different combinations over the past seven years. First, we could drastically cut spending — again. We’ve already gone through so many rounds of this that it’s hard to imagine there’s much left to cut. We could end up closing more courthouses, or a university campus, or even another prison. We could lay off even more state employees.
Second, we could ask state employees and the unions to voluntarily give up some of what they are owed in their contracts. This has happened several times during the Malloy administration, and it’s always been grueling and controversial. Worse, it never actually fixed the problem. If you suspect the unions are even less inclined than usual to accept givebacks, you’re absolutely right.
The third way to close that budget gap is to raise taxes. We’ve also done this before, and to judge from the moaning and groaning it’s as if the governor personally came to everyone’s house and stole their grandmother’s life savings. There’s a lot of talk now about taxing the