The state legislature very recently approved a new Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which will allow covered employees to take paid leave for up to twelve weeks. This leave will be paid by the state within certain set limits and, in exchange, employees will have to pay an additional 0.5% in payroll taxes. Much ink has already been spilled debating the merits of this new law. Suffice to say that some people are generally happy while others are generally unhappy. One small group of employees is particularly happy, though, and it deserves special mention.
Public sector unions have once again hit up their friends in Hartford for flexibility not otherwise available to the rest of us plebeians. We have grown both accustomed and perhaps numb now to unchecked grants of benefits to our public union members, the sheer scale and quantity of which continue to flood our state’s balance sheet like an encroaching swamp. And yet, the creativity of our state democrats seems boundless when tasked with expanding the perks afforded to public unions. Those now effectively include tax credits, as public sector union members will be subject to the payroll tax only if they negotiate themselves into coverage. It is as though Connecticut woke up in a Credence Clearwater Revival Song, except all of the Fortunate Sons are born to public unions. What I wouldn’t give for such choices. Perhaps we can form a public taxpayers’ union.
But such is the system of rewards in Connecticut. Outsized generosity to public sector unions begets generosity to legislators, which begets additional generosity to unions, and so forth. History suggests that additional bureaucracy will be viewed as necessary to administer this new benefit, and what better way to reward one’s union benefactors than to offer them a coveted bureaucratic role? It is as though the public sector union class has become the patrician class, and Lamont our very own Caesar. (We who are about to be taxed to death salute you!)
I’m not holding my breath for a plebeian tribune. But it would be wonderful if the legislative majority stopped treating everyone who is not a public sector union member as a second-class citizen. A little equality goes a long way.
As it happens, we could learn a lot from the Romans’ successes and mistakes. About the only thing the current Democrat-controlled state government has not yet proposed is a Publicani, but I don’t put it past them. What they should take away from Roman history, if nothing else, is the potential economic benefit of a limited, fair, and relatively flat approach to taxation. Augustus recognized this and saw considerable economic expansion. Contrast Diocletion and Constantine, who on reflection must be the role models for Connecticut Democrats.