13 May 2007

To Live and Die in Connecticut

One of the worst aspects about living in Connecticut is dying in Connecticut, especially if you have worked your whole life and want to leave a legacy to your children, your old school, your community or your dog.

But even more corrosive is the fact that Connecticut residents have been moving out before they pass over into the next world to avoid having their heirs pay death taxes, thereby hurting our economy and quality of life now we are all still hitting the clock and trying to make sense of it.

Both Governor Rell and the House and Senate Republicans understand this and want to drive a stake through the Estate Tax. The Democrats? Er, they are checking the obits every day to see who has bought it so they can cash out and build more programs into the budget and hope enough people don't buy a one-way ticket to Palm Beach before their due date.

Today's article in the Hartford Courant illustrates the point, but in typical fashion, it focuses on the celebrity aspects of dying. They pointed out Katherine Hepburn, who was a generous member of her community, occasionally buying a firetruck for the Fenwick Fire Company out of her own pocket.The real money lies in Fairfield County, where active entrepreneurs are managing and using their wealth to create more wealth - jobs and taxes in real time.

The Estate Tax is a killer is more than the literal sense, since it saddles heirs with covering the tax vig for estates over $2 million not that large a sum in today's world.

The Courant story noted:

"While the legislature wrestles with the future of the estate tax, heirs are still paying the taxes for their deceased relatives. In the current year, the legislature's nonpartisan fiscal office projects that the state will collect $180 million in estate and gift taxes - in excess of $21 million more than originally estimated.

The legislative fight is focused on those who die with more than $2 million, because current law states that no taxes are owed on estates below that level. In addition, the state collects nothing if the estate is passed to a surviving spouse. The tax is paid only upon the death of the surviving spouse.

Although $2 million is a large amount for many families, it is not an unusual amount in lower Fairfield County, where many homes alone sell for more than $2 million.":

House Speaker James Amann wants to balance the books by taking one from class to give to another which doesn't pay any taxes while growing the bureaucracy. In his world, someone should have to pay tribute to the state simply because they are successful, smart and risk takers. Now that's a real welcome mat for investment and stable population growth.

The Courant noted the story about Paul Wilson, a retiree from Bloomfield, who worriesIn Bloomfield, retired bond trader Paul H. Wilson has been carefully watching the legislature.

"The longtime trader managed a portfolio of more than $1 billion by the time he retired from CIGNA in 1993. Wilson said he knew famed trader Michael Milken as a friend "when he was a nobody" in the days before Milken ended up in prison for his dealings at Drexel Burnham Lambert.

With a solid pension and substantial capital gains, Wilson currently earns in the six figures as a retiree, and he worries mightily about his future tax ramifications.

"I don't want to die in Connecticut," said the 69-year-old Wilson, who also has an apartment in Massachusetts.

"This stuff is real. The Republicans aren't blowing steam. I can't see my children not getting it. Why should they have to bear my burden from dying in Connecticut?"

Yet Amann and the Democrats march on. You can't even go to your grave without the Democrats prying open the casket one last time.

Amann is so strangely ignorant of human behavior and the real world, it is scary. For someone who sat in a hospital bed for months and claimed to be changed, Amann has so much resentment for anyone he believes has it better than him. John Rowland once adroitly remarked, "Jim Amann is the only guy who came out of near death experience angrier than he came in." Well, people that make money by risking it, investing it, nurturing it or spending it are not evil people. That is why the next four weeks at the State Capitol are critical to our success as a party, but more importantly our survival as a state.