Saturday, May 27, 2017

Slow Saturday Special: Million-Dollar Lunch

Looks like I'll be going hungry today then:

"Business advocates gear up for legal fight against ‘millionaires tax’ proposal" by Jon Chesto Globe Staff  May 26, 2017

A proposal that would impose more taxes on the rich to pay for education and transportation is expected to be an easy sell to voters.

That’s why the state’s most powerful business groups want to stop the initiative before it gets that far. They’re working on a legal challenge to scuttle the so-called millionaires tax.

The Massachusetts High Technology Council president Christopher Anderson wrote that the surcharge could cause irreparable harm to the state’s innovation economy.

Or to some phat wallets around here.

The odd thing is, I'm an anti-tax advocate. Government wastes enough money and doesn't need more. Suffering taxpayers picking up pensions and perks for lavish political lifestyles doesn't cut it anymore; however, this "debate" is all taking place in the context of massive wealth inequality that is BEING ASSISTED by massive amounts of tax loot being showered on corporations.

I guess it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation -- and who$e the winner again?

Other influential business groups — such as the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership — also oppose the labor-backed surcharge. Among their strategies: filing a lawsuit later this year that challenges its constitutionality.

That will $low it down if not kill it. Judges just got a raise, too.

If the measure appears on the ballot in November 2018 and voters approve it, the taxation rate for personal income above $1 million would increase by 4 percentage points. Assuming the current income tax rate of 5.1 percent remains in place, an individual would pay the standard rate on all income up to $1 million, and then pay a 9.1 percent rate for earnings above that threshold.

But the union-funded “Fair Share Amendment” still needs to clear an important hurdle: a vote by the state lawmakers to put the tax question before voters next year.

Oh, I can see the arm-twisting behind closed doors, and I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the tax.

The surcharge would be created through a constitutional amendment, which requires two roll call votes from the Legislature. Lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved it once, in 2016. They could take their second vote as soon as June 14.

The business groups’ legal strategy is just starting to take shape. One likely plan of attack: challenging language that would set aside funds for education and transportation. They argue that constitutional amendments can’t appropriate funds for specific uses. They also may also claim that the referendum question is too broad.

The millionaires tax is projected to raise nearly $2 billion a year. But critics say there’s no guarantee the new revenue will result in an equivalent increase in education and transportation funding. Lawmakers could use the new money to pay for preexisting line items in the state budget, which would then free up that money for other causes, such as health care. 

Yeah, especially when all the revenue projections from authority are overly optimistic time after time after time as they move $hells around.

Then there’s the risk of building a budget around a potentially volatile revenue stream — income taxes collected from the wealthy often vary from year to year.

 Yeah, they might leave like in Connecticut.

Supporters of the additional tax cite studies that show a relatively small number of wealthy people move out of state because of tax policies. James Rooney, chief executive of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce whose group only recently took an official stance against the surcharge, however, still worries about the economic impact.

“We need to be mindful of the mobility of people and businesses in this economy,” he said, pointing to General Electric’s decision to relocate from Connecticut to Boston last year.

Business opposition to a tax on the rich, however, is not unanimous. The left-leaning Alliance for Business Leadership, for example, is trying to build support for the surcharge.

Surcharge supporters say they’re on solid legal ground. They point to the state’s gas tax, whose proceeds are set aside for transportation purposes. 

Then why are the roads and bridges around here in such rotten shape? All going to fund goldbricking political appointees and retirees, huh?

A successful court challenge would be far less expensive than a campaign to defeat a ballot question, which could cost millions.

But they got the $$$ if needed.

While the Massachusetts High Technology Council won’t say how much it hopes to raise, the Globe reported last fall that the group’s goal was in the $400,000 range.

In comparison, the Raise Up Massachusetts ballot committee spent nearly $600,000 in the past two years to get the millionaires tax this far. Most of that money came from union sources, including Services Employees International Union affiliates, and the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

The opponents have not yet created a ballot committee, so their expenses are not public. Mark Gallagher, executive vice president at the high-tech group, said his side has to disclose its spending only when it begins to try to directly influence voters. Legal work doesn’t count, he said.

“It’s easy to see how this would be appealing to voters,” said Eileen McAnneny, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. “The vast majority of them are not subject to the new tax. . . . You just don’t want to hurt the underpinnings of our economy with a tax that will hit investors, innovators and entrepreneurs.”

Yeah, f*** the rest of us all instead. I'm sure Paul Ryan would agree.


Yeah, whadda ya' want to do, become Connecticut? 

"With state budget in crisis, Conn. governor says history will vindicate him" by Joshua Miller Globe Staff  May 25, 2017

HARTFORD — Six-and-a-half years into his tenure as chief executive, Dannel P. Malloy is the nation’s least popular Democratic governor.

He says the honor is well-deserved.

After all, he insists, it’s grimy work cleaning up years of Republican mismanagement.

Connecticut is the wealthiest state in the country, but it faces a massive budget gap and the prospect of even higher taxes and more painful budget cuts.

No kidding? Us, too

The unemployment rate is the highest in New England, New York, and New Jersey. Economic inequality is pervasive. The state’s population has shrunk each of the last three years. General Electric’s headquarters fled for Boston. And just last week, Connecticut saw its bond rating downgraded, placing it as less creditworthy than almost every other state.

Uh-oh. If the bankers don't like you.... no wonder his approval is in the toilet.

Still, Malloy, who is not running for reelection in 2018, says his time in office — with a focus on the nuts-and-bolts funding of pensions and long-deferred health care obligations — will be vindicated by history.

That's what failures say, and see you in the bar car when it's over.

“I think the changes we make, people won’t give us credit for until they actually experience, until they actually see what happens,” he said.

In the meantime, he’s taking heat from business groups, fiscal watchdogs, cities and towns, and the 66 percent of Connecticut voters who disapprove of his job performance.

But in an interview this week in his office at the state Capitol, Malloy, a Democrat, described his tenure — signing two of the state’s biggest tax increases into law, restructuring a major contract with state employee unions, and plowing money into funding long-term liabilities — as cleaning up messes he inherited from his Republican predecessors.

“Connecticut’s problems aren’t recently manufactured. They exist. And have existed,” said Malloy, who won narrow victories in 2010 and 2014. “And many people enjoyed ignoring them for a long period of time and experienced great personal popularity as a result of their willingness to ignore them. And it eventually falls on someone to, you know, raise the mirror.”

Asked about a recent poll that ranked him one of the least popular governors in the country, with a job approval rating of only 29 percent, Malloy interrupted a Globe reporter.

“Well-deserved,” Malloy said.

Because he’s made hard choices?

“Because I’m making the hard choices,” the governor said, sitting in front of a wallpaper rendition of the forces of British General Charles Cornwallis surrendering at Yorktown, Va., and concluding the American Revolution.

Over the course of a 30-minute interview, Malloy exuded the argumentative directness of a New York City prosecutor — which he once was. He attacked the premise of several questions and interrupted others halfway through.

Kind of like a blogger, huh?

The Democrat, who turns 62 next month, expressed impatience with the media and the public’s lack of interest in the complexities of actuarial projections and pension fund returns. “It’s a very difficult situation for people to understand,” he said.

Then it is his fault, not Trump's (and yeah, we too-pids won't undrastan nuthin, duh!)

And he cast shade on previous policy makers, including Democratic legislators, for sloughing off their responsibilities.

Oh, like here in Ma$$achu$etts!

A graduate of Boston College and Boston College Law School, and later a Brooklyn prosecutor, Malloy was the mayor of Stamford, where he served from 1995-2009. In a razor-close 2010 race for governor, he beat Republican Thomas C. Foley but faced him again in 2014.

Malloy ran that year on what he framed as his steadfast leadership in the face of crises — the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the remnants of Hurricane Sandy, and the state’s budget troubles. Notably during his first term, he shepherded into law some of the country’s toughest gun control measures and made them a centerpiece of his successful push for reelection.

Malloy, who can adroitly play the part of partisan attack dog, is now the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, which spends millions to elect Democrats and defeat Republicans across the country.

That national focus has had to take a back seat to his problems at home.

Connecticut is unique. It had the highest per-capita personal income of any state, $71,033 in 2016 and is a hub for several big employers, including insurance giant Aetna Inc. and aerospace juggernaut United Technologies Corp. It has strong K-12 education, Yale University, and a robust financial services industry.

Aetna may be lured away like GE.

It also has a particularly thorny fiscal situation.

For decades, the state’s pension and benefits plans for state employeesand local teachers, too — weren’t properly funded. Now, Connecticut is making bigger contributions to the system, but that leaves much less money to spend on everything else.

Yeah, it's always the public servants that were made promises in the forms of contracts that are the problem. Not $cum administration or political patrons. 

“They’ve got a third of the budget they can’t cut,” said Marcia Van Wagner, the top credit analyst for the state at Moody’s Investors Service, one of the big-three rating agencies. That includes paying off debts and forking over cash for pensions and health care for state and local workers and retirees.


All of that is on top of the huge costs of health care for the poor and disabled.

“They’re very boxed in. They’re not getting the economic growth to pay for those costs. There’s no magic bullet,” she said. “It’s going to be a tough slog.”

Connecticut income tax revenue — of which an outsized proportion comes from the very rich — has recently fallen dramatically short of expectations. But a small tax base and recent tax increases mean there’s not much flexibility to further squeeze out more revenue, experts say. It’s a free country, after all, and people can move.

They want to $queeze you like stone!

“We’re a small state,” said Joseph F. Brennan, who leads the powerful Connecticut Business & Industry Association. “So when a couple hedge fund managers decide to go to Florida, it gets noticed in your revenue receipts.”

Malloy acknowledged that the state has reached a ceiling, at least on taxing the rich.

He called it “somewhat unreasonable” to get more than 33 percent of income tax revenue from the top 1 percent of your taxpayers, as Connecticut currently does. (The top rate is 6.99 percent.)

He just admitted the flaw in the entire $y$tem, didn't he?

He also noted about half of Connecticut earners currently pay no state income tax.

Don't make enough, right?

But, even though he’s been in office since January 2011, he framed the system as inherited from his predecessors, a word he repeated, singular and plural, several times during the interview, especially when discussing tax increases.

“Every dollar increase in taxes has gone to pay for the obligations that my predecessors didn’t fund,” Malloy said. (Before Malloy, the last Democratic governor left office in 1991.) 

Yeah, I love how these guys that have been there for years blame the guys who are gone. 

What about the campaign promises and all that? 

Remember in 2008 when the Bush administration tried to blame the financial crisis on Jimmy Carter? I got a good laugh out of that!

Brennan, who represents thousands of Connecticut businesses, placed responsibility for the pervasive sense of fiscal crisis that scares off new investment and new talent not on any one person, but at the feet of the broader state government over many years.

He said the underlying problem is not only that another big-name company such as GE may leave, but that when companies already here open a production line or want to expand a subsidiary, they often look to do so somewhere other than Connecticut.

“Unless and until we can get our fiscal problems at least manageable,” he said, it will, unfortunately, be “the number one policy issue that you talk about when you talk about Connecticut.”

There is praise for the governor’s priorities in some quarters. Lisa Tepper Bates, who directs the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, said the governor has been a staunch ally and helped protect funding for efforts to reduce homelessness.

And state workers’ unions and the governor agreed this week to a framework for rewriting their contract with big savings from worker concessions in exchange for the promise of years of job and benefit protections.

You guys never learn, do you?

Malloy, who has seen the Democratic majorities in the Legislature erode under his watch, expressed certainty that the state would land on its feet, and he brushed aside concerns about public approbation.

Just like Obummer, and the reason is given the choice between a Republican and a real Republican, the American people take the real Republican every time.

“I don’t stay up at night worrying about how popular I am,” said Malloy. “What I worry about is whether I’m making real and systemic change, and that I’m doing.”

Little over a year left.


So, what, I'm supposed to feel sorry for that jerk?

Maybe the millionaires wouldn't mind us devouring the scraps?

"Sharing some school lunch foods off the table" by Michael Melia Associated Press  March 02, 2017

WALLINGFORD, Conn. — Those lessons about sharing? At lunchtime, in Connecticut schools, they come with an asterisk.

School officials in a Connecticut town are criticizing new restrictions on lunchroom ‘‘share tables,’’ which encourage students to donate uneaten food for any classmates who may be hungry.

The concept has been promoted by the US Agriculture Department as a way to reduce waste, but it is up to local governments to determine what health codes will allow. Under a Connecticut policy updated in January, unopened milk, most fruits, and the like are off the table.

In Wallingford, a New Haven suburb, Nick Iannone, 14, launched a share table last year as a school project. He noticed fruits and vegetables that come with every hot lunch were ending up in the trash.

It's just like the Bo$ton schools, and I guess that's why you are hungry at breakfast.

‘‘I realized no one eats that,’’ said Iannone, an eighth-grader at James H. Moran Middle School.

Students of all backgrounds took advantage of the extra servings, Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said, but he worries the policy change could deprive needy students, including those who might go without breakfast at home.

‘‘It’s unfortunate the state of Connecticut has chosen to remove many of the items we were able to share and have shared from the list of acceptable items,’’ Menzo said.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service in a June 2016 memo endorsed setting up stations where schoolchildren can return food or beverage items and make them available to others. While the federal government recommended sharing of fruit and unopened milk that is kept cold, it noted that local food and safety codes may be more restrictive.

The idea has not caught on widely in American schools, John Williamson, the president of Food Rescue, which works with schools to reduce waste. Indiana, where he founded the organization, has become a national leader with some 400 schools running share tables or recovering food for pantries.

Some states, such as Vermont, have longer lists of items that can be shared, while others, like North Carolina, have prohibited sharing any food that already has been served. Officials often are not aware that school food donations are protected from liability by a federal 2011 Good Samaritan law, Williamson said.

Hey, they have a problem with which john you want to use so whadcha expect?

‘‘It’s the same objections every single time,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s this myth that they’re going to get sued.’’

Connecticut’s Department of Education added the new restrictions after consulting with public health officials. A state memo detailed concerns about potential hazards with foods that require temperature control.

I guess my print article ran out of space, but the web keeps serving you:

An education department spokeswoman, Abbe Smith, said that it supports the share-tables strategy and that student health and safety is a top priority.

In Wallingford, more than 1,300 students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch — roughly 22 percent of the district population — but even with government reimbursement it is not cost-effective for Wallingford to serve subsidized breakfast, as some larger districts do. With lunch generally served early in the day, Menzo said, the share tables are seen as a way to help those who might arrive at school hungry. 

I used too get those; they weren't great, but they weren't bad. 

A donated refrigerator at the middle school keeps cold yogurt and milk designated for sharing.

School officials have inquired about a waiver to the new state policy. Without a reversal, food donated in district schools that cannot be shared with other students will be collected for distribution at a food pantry instead.


I'm fami$hed, readers!