By CHRIS POWELL
Last week this column examined the government pension racket in Connecticut through the example of the "retirement" of New Haven Police Chief Tony Reyes, who is only 49 and is giving up his city salary of $170,000 to become police chief at Quinnipiac University in adjacent Hamden. Since New Haven City Hall needed a week before it could provide an estimate of the annual pension Reyes immediately will begin receiving, last week's column surmised it might amount to $80,000.
That was low. The city's budget office now estimates Reyes' annual pension at $117,000.
While Quinnipiac is a nonprofit institution exempt from federal, state, and municipal taxes and thereby is subsidized by all levels of government, the university won't disclose what it will pay Reyes. But his salary there likely will equal or exceed his salary with the city. That would mean annual income for him of at least $287,000 for his remaining 15 or so years of a typical working life. That's getting close to the $319,000 salary now being paid by the University of Connecticut to its former president, Susan Herbst, who is now teaching just one or two political science courses at UConn's Stamford branch - essentially another premature pension - after enjoying a year of paid vacation costing UConn $711,000.
Social Security, the pension system covering most people who do not work for the government, penalizes those who begin claiming benefits prior to the standard retirement age but continue to work for wages. The benefits of such people are reduced. But Connecticut's government pension system rewards people for working for wages while also collecting benefits, thereby signifying that government employees are better and more deserving than the people who pay for them.
This practice is somehow called public service, and while it is all taxpayer money, it draws no objection from the governor, state legislators, and mayors like New Haven's Justin Elicker, who are always pleading poverty.
ANOTHER HIDDEN TAX
Now Democratic state legislators are planning to impose another hidden tax like the "gross receipts tax" levied on wholesale gasoline prices, which drivers pay without seeing it posted at the gas pump or anywhere else.
The Democrats' new idea is to tax medical insurance companies as the federal government did until recently in the name of raising money for insurance for the poor. This tax would drive up insurance costs for everybody while giving the false impression that the big, bad insurance companies had raised prices again. The Democrats' idea presumes that medical insurance is not already expensive enough for nearly everyone.
Government already imposes hidden taxes on medical insurance by requiring policies to provide discretionary coverage many people don't want.
While government should facilitate decent medical insurance for all, people always should be given a clear view of government's cost. Other than deceiving voters, there is no justification for hiding the cost of insurance for the poor in the insurance bills of others.
The additional tax burden would be clearer if the revenue was drawn from general state taxes, like the income and sales taxes. Then insurance for the poor would compete in the open with all other demands on government.
Until people can see clearly how they are taxed, they are not likely to insist on efficiency and better priorities in government, like ending the pension racket.
MURPHY LOOKS AWAY
Last week Connecticut U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy deplored the decline of press freedom in Ethiopia. Meanwhile the giant social media companies in the United States began censoring President Trump, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, and others because of their political views.
That did not bother the senator.
Additionally, in recent years one national media company has acquired half the daily and weekly newspapers in Connecticut and another three companies have acquired most major radio and television stations in both the state and the country - again without objection from the senator.
Is the senator unaware of the worsening concentration of media ownership at home and the resulting reduction of voices? Or does he realize that while nothing about Ethiopia can ever hurt him, challenging the concentration of media ownership here might?
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.