Our hokus-pokus, smoke and mirror, Three-card Monte budget

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The Connecticut legislature has finally agreed upon a two-year budget and Gov. Dannel Malloy has signed it into law — minus a hospital funding mechanism which he deleted with a line-item veto. Some of the details of this document have been provided to us by Paul Hughes in the Wednesday edition of the Republican-American. Part of the details say “all individuals with a valid Connecticut license plate will be exempted from paying parking fees at state parks.” However, “A $10 surcharge on motor vehicle registrations will go to support parks. It is expected to raise $8 million this year and $16 million next year, but $2.6 million will be transferred to [the] general fund each year.”

So let’s see if I understand all of this correctly.

  • CT is dead broke and its roads are rated as some of the worst maintained in the country. (A July 2013 ranking put CT at #44.)
  • One may reasonably presume that motor vehicle taxes and related fees are used to maintain the transportation infrastructure.
  • But, the new budget implements a $10 surcharge on motor vehicles to support… the state parks!
  • At the same time, parking fees are removed for all who enter the parks in a valid CT registered vehicle, which decreases the current revenue collected at the parks.
  • The parking waiver then shifts the burden from those who use the parks to everyone in the state who registers a motor vehicle, whether they ever use a park or not. And multiple vehicles in a household are all taxed the extra $10, even though a person can only drive one at a time.
  • Finally, $2.6 million of the fees generated from the $10 motor vehicle surcharge (to pay for running the parks) will be diverted from the parks maintenance account (which it was collected for), to… the general fund?

This is all hokus-pokus and smoke and mirrors budgeting at its best!

Three months from now (or less), will anyone remember that part of this new $10 vehicle registration surcharge fee to maintain the parks is being diverted into the general fund? I doubt that I am the only person in this state who believes that all funds collected for a specific purpose should be used exclusively for that stated purpose only.

This budget is like a Three-card Monte game, where the state funds keep getting shifted around until nobody knows where any of it ends up. The only thing Connecticut taxpayers can be reasonably sure of is that their tax dollars probably won’t end up being used for the purpose for which they were collected.

Budget Bonus: Connecticut now has another “first” on its list (of many more positive ones), as being the only state in the nation to have ever gone 123 days without a budget in place. I’m sure Gov. Malloy will leave that fact off his list of accomplishments on his official resume when he leaves office in 2019.

Craig Hoffman lives in Cheshire.

 

What do you think?

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