Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Here in the Land of Steady Habits, we will leave no stone unturned and no tern unstoned in pursuit of additional revenue streams as we lumber through another state budget preparation season that will, if history is any indicator, be marked by lots of posturing and pouting by whichever side's ideas aren't incorporated verbatim into the final budget.

I'm still stuck on what happens to all the money from the CT Income tax and the state sales tax, plus the revenue the state gets from the two casinos for doing I'm not quite certain what. Once the zeroes start to run together, I get dizzy but it seems to be a lot of money. however in order to live happily for the next twenty minutes or so, Governor Malloy's proposed budget is casting an even wider net seeking even bigger fish in revenue streams of every size.

Last May I came across an article in Forbes, entitled "25 Years, $13 Billion Lost: Connecticut Income Tax Continues to Fail," I think from the title you can guess it didn't have a cheery ending, but that was written before the Governor proposed in his new budget to double down on the deposit we pay for bottles and cans.

Connecticut has had a deposit on cans and bottles since 1980. Its proper name is 'container redemption program' and the categories of what may be redeemed have changed and expanded (a bit) in the course of the years. Sill not included, to my personal dismay, are those itty-bitty bottles of liquor, "nips," as they're called. I find it disheartening as warmer temperatures melt more of the snow that, in addition to crocuses, I see so many (more) empty nips bottles. They are everywhere, underfoot and unwelcome. I think they'd make a terrific addition to recycling.  

Container redemption or recycling, if you will, saves space in landfills, helps conserve materials, while giving some a project on weekends patrolling highways and side-roads picking up the discards and redeeming them to cover those margin trades that didn't quite work. Since 2008, all unredeemed deposit money has been "escheated." That's a fancy word for the state deciding  "what's mine is mine but what's yours is negotiable."

In other words, all unredeemed container money goes to the General Fund. Back in the day a cash-strapped then-Governor Jodi Rell and a State Legislature faced a budget gap and those unredeemed bottles and cans were too attractive to resist. Obviously, the cans and bottles by the side of the road that are getting picked up and redeemed have already had the deposit paid. But if they're never redeemed, that should mean there's a pile of nickels, soon to be a stack of dimes if the Governor and Legislature can agree, someplace sitting all by its lonesome. As you've probably guessed that's not actually true.

Fast forward to the here and now. When everyone responsible for creating the state budget does all the stubby-pencil addition and subtraction, income and expenditure figuring, a budget gap, much like Banquo's Ghost, keeps returning. One thing about old habits, they can be hard to break.  

Now you may think you just felt the price of your favorite bottled and canned beverages go up. Pshaw! Think of it as enhanced, because that's what your legislators will tell you. And if you don't recycle those bottles and cans to reclaim your deposit, that's okay too. As a matter of fact, The Constitution State is not so secretly, not only hoping you don't redeem the deposit, it's counting on it. Yep. That's how bad things have gotten.

You look shocked. I’d offer you some water but we know how that ends up. Maybe if you take a few deep breaths; y’know,
that gives me an idea.
-bill kenny


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