Connecticut Lurches Left–From the NYT’s Center-Right POV

“Connecticut is closing out its most activist, liberal legislative session in memory,” Peter Applebome reports in the New York Times (6/8/11), with “the largest tax increase in Connecticut history” as the centerpiece of his case.

“They decided to tear up the antitax, budget-slashing, confront-the-unions script that has characterized state legislative sessions elsewhere,” Applebome writes, noting that “Republicans say the last five months of lawmaking have been a liberal joy ride and a capitulation to the state’s powerful unions…. ‘Their solution is to tax the wealthy in Fairfield County, redistribute income and hope people in Greenwich and Darien don’t move to Florida,’ said Christopher Healy, the state Republican Party chairman.” The reporter quotes a conservative newspaper’s assertion that “the state of Connecticut has left the gravitational pull of planet Earth.”

Applebome quotes some Democrats defending themselves as well, but he paints a vivid picture of a very controversial budget approach. Then he gets around to describing it: “The Legislature adopted a $40.1 billion budget that relies on $1.4 billion in tax increases, about $800 million in cuts and a projected $1.6 billion in union concessions on pay and benefits over two years.” Union concessions are cuts, right? So he’s really saying that the budget includes $1.4 billion in new taxes and roughly $1.6 billion this year in cuts. That’s not exactly tearing up the budget-slashing, anti-union script–that’s about a 4 percent cut in the state budget, largely at the expense of unions.

This is the plan that the New York Times thinks merits the (print) subhead “Connecticut Shifts to the Left.”

What would help readers put this piece in context would be a sense of who was paying taxes before the tax increase. According to the invaluable “Who Pays?” report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (11/09), in Connecticut the highest tax rate was paid by the poorest 20 percent, with these taxpayers handing over 12 percent of their income to state and local government. The richest 1 percent, meanwhile, paid 6.5 percent of their income in state and local taxes.

I very much doubt that the Connecticut legislature doubled taxes on the wealthy, but if they had, then the state would be the kind of far-out left-wing socialist utopia where the rich are expected to pay about as much of their incomes as the poor to support schools, police and fire departments.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.