This past week, the Connecticut Legislature took a solid step towards fiscal stability by approving a $40.1 billion budget that includes progressive measures. Despite several elected officials across the states opting to rely predominantly on cuts and failing to either invest in communities or support the middle class, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy's insistence on "shared sacrifice" has stood in bold contrast to flawed right-wing budget policies.
Faced with the lasting effects of the Great Recession on state revenues, governors and legislators across the country have spent much of the 2011 legislative session proposing unpopular and economically destructive cuts to education, health care, and other critical services in state budgets. In many states, cuts to services that largely affect working families have been accompanied by unpopular tax giveaways to millionaires and big businesses – trickle-down policies mirrored in the proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2012 authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), which would privatize Medicare while extending tax breaks for the super-wealthy.
At the end of March, the New York Times published an explosive story finding that General Electric (G.E.), the nation's largest company which reported $5.1 billion in profit last year from operations in the U.S., would not pay a dime in federal taxes. Similarly, ExxonMobil posted profits exceeding $45 billion last year, but as a result of aggressive tax avoidance strategies, paid no federal income tax in 2009. Almost as shockingly, in a 2008 report, the Government Accountability Office discovered that two out of every three U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005.
Several elected officials across the states have approached budget shortfalls with extremely short-sighted and economically damaging proposals, including lavish tax breaks for corporations, slashing unemployment benefits, heinous cuts to programs that primarily benefit middle class and working families, eliminating earned income tax credit (EITC) programs, and privatizing services and institutions across the board, such as mental health services, prisons, and infrastructure. These types of policies will only serve to worsen fiscal pressures, exacerbate the economic pain of the middle class, increase inequality, and heighten the current regressivity of state tax structures, which, on average, place a heavier burden on low and middle-income earners than the rich. This is demonstrative of a disturbing and pervasive recent trend: tax breaks for the affluent and corporations, and austerity for the rest.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been hailed by some as a bold leader,
but the priorities expressed in his first budget, approved this week by the legislature, indicate that he is following the right-wing's
slash-and-burn policies and adhering to economically flawed and discounted