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Cash on hand vs. pie in the sky


Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has finally given up on his plan to send each of us a check for $55 this year — and that’s a good thing. It’s about time this idea — which never made any sense in the first place, except as a political gesture with the next gubernatorial election in mind — was dropped.

In effect, most people making under $200,000 were going to get enough money to buy a tank of gasoline (most couples making less than $400,000 would have gotten enough for two tanks). That comes to around $155 million — plus millions more for postage and paperwork.

But now the plan — about which Malloy’s administration made such a fuss, for months — is out the window, because the money simply isn’t there.

Back in January, the projection was that the state would pull in an extra $364 million this year, and maybe more. So, in February, Malloy was planning to fund the rebate, plus a tax break for retired teachers. Then, in March, administration officials even floated the idea that, through a “high multiplier effect,” the proposed rebate might also create 1,000 jobs.

Now, however, “We do not anticipate enough revenue to provide a tax refund or to make a supplemental pension payment, as we had hoped in January,” budget chief Benjamin Barnes told lawmakers, as reported in The Connecticut Mirror — even though the state employees’ pension fund is funded at a less-than-healthy 42 percent. Nor was it ever part of the plan to use some of the projected surplus to, say, reduce the caseload of social workers at the Department of Children and Families (which had long been under federal monitoring for failing to adequately care for abused and neglected children); or maybe to prudently pay down some of the state’s debt.

Granted, it’s always hard to know how much money will come into the state’s coffers in a given year — especially at a time when we’re still climbing, slowly and painfully, out of a recession. You’re working on projections, estimates. Nobody has a crystal ball.

But you might think that would give the keepers of the state’s pocketbook all the more reason to be prudent, to spend less, to promise less. Well, it doesn’t work that way.

At least, not up in Hartford.



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