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.
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.
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.