It is hard to say which idea is more popular in Connecticut – a tax on groceries or building a wall.

Both concepts caused plenty of aggita last week in their respective political circles.

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Gov. Ned Lamont’s figurative back is against the budget deficit wall, which is perhaps why he has floated the notion of a sales tax on groceries and other long-exempt items.

The idea apparently came from the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, and reaction from many quarters was immediate and, no surprise, largely negative. State House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, called the notion a “non-starter,” and advocates for the poor condemned it as hurtful and “so distasteful that we hope it isn’t real.

Democratic leaders, meanwhile, urged folks to “take a deep breath” while lawmakers consider a wide range of ideas – good, bad and otherwise. (This includes a number of bills to further tighten the state’s already restrictive gun laws.)

At least one idea – a proposal to mandate the regionalization of school districts — seemed no more popular than the grocery tax idea.

The governor, at least, is looking for new ideas and new people to think them – as witnessed by his appointment of a trio of business executives to the job of leading the state effort to end a decade of economic stagnation. (Whether an expansion of casino gambling here is part of that is a very open question.)

He was also relying on a half-dozen business people to help him find a new president for the University of Connecticut, who sources said is likely to be Thomas C. Katsoulas, provost of the University of Virginia. The UConn board has not confirmed the choice, but is scheduled to vote on the appointment Tuesday.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with East Hartford’s Bryan Hall  and Robert Rader.

Naming a new education commissioner is becoming a much more messy process. Maybe it will happen before U.S Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visits the East Hartford school she unfairly bad-mouthed almost two years ago.

Down in Washington, D.C., lawmakers are preparing for President Donald Trump’s second State of the Union Address. Immigration is likely to be one of the president’s main themes, and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy’s invited guest is intended to be a message on that subject.

Negotiations over border security hang over the capitol as Trump expresses little confidence in getting the funding he wants and threatens to declare a national emergency as an alternative. The president is less concerned about the security threats from China, North Korea, Russia and Isis articulated last week by his top intelligence officials who are, in his words, “extremely passive and naive.

The Russia investigation also continues to bubble, having already played havoc with the careers of Trump allies and Connecticut natives Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal continues to fear that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report will be laundered through the Attorney General and has introduced legislation to prevent that.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, is feeling optimistic about his chances of bringing solvency and an expansion of benefits to Social Security.

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Paul SternViewpoints Editor

Paul has more than 40 years of reporting and editing experience at newspapers in New Jersey, Florida and Connecticut. He worked 22 years at the Hartford Courant in various editing roles including as deputy state editor, assistant editor of Northeast Magazine, and as an associate editor at Courant.com. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University. A trained chef, he and his wife own and operate a bed and breakfast in an historic home in Mansfield.

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2 Comments

  1. To those concerned with how the “poor and working families” will manage to afford a tax on groceries I can only extend my sympathies and ask who did you vote for? If you voted for Connecticut democrats then you got what you wanted. How does it fit? If you voted for republicans then you have known for months that no one would be spared by a general assembly and governor that have sworn their allegiance to the state unions. Their need to raise revenue to fund a bloated state work force and lavish pension system would set their cross hairs on their favorite and very predictable target of choice, you. Please don’t tell me that you didn’t see it coming.

  2. The Commission of Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth issued its report last year which was well covered here in the Mirror. A chart showing the growing gap between state revenue and expense indicates that our structural $1-2B annual deficits will worsen for 10+years as the unfunded and unsustainable state worker retirement/health care benefit bill comes due. This state is in deep fiscal trouble.

    We get the Government we deserve, so in 2019 we get complete one party rule which will focus on tax-based solutions to our budget crisis. The unholy Democrat/Union alliance will prevent meaningful spending reform as our state slips further. Unfortunately, more businesses and taxpayers will leave the state and will accelerate our fiscal tailspin. It truly looks to me like we’re past the point of no return.

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