FAQ: When Do We Worry About Money?

We have recently noticed a natural human tendency: When we are in favor of something, we ignore the costs, no matter how great. When we are against something, we highlight the costs, no matter how small.

This is clearly illustrated by two Hartford Courant editorials, one day apart.

Monday Dec 22nd: Rell Sharpens The Knife <read>

Last week, Gov. M. Jodi Rell proposed her second “deficit mitigation plan” designed to erase the remaining $356 million gap between revenue and expenses in this fiscal year’s state budget. Again, as the first time, she gets rid of the shortfall without layoffs, new taxes or raiding the rainy day fund, a cash reserve account with $1.4 billion in it…

But at $10,000-plus a day, a special session is an expense the state can do without.

Here we are talking millions and billions in decisions. The Courant on this same day ran a front page story of the financial difficulties facing towns such as Simsbury. But the Courant’s problem is $10,000 a day to have our Legislature work on this problem. If we ran government like a business then we would gladly spend $10,000 a day to deal with million and billion dollar issues…that seems to be exactly what the Governor is proposing. Then again we could run Government like a newspaper…

(Note: We really don’t know if having a special session is a good idea or not. However, $10,000 a day for a few days work on the part of the Legislature is negligible if such a session would help deal better with the economic situation)

Sunday Dec 21st: Let Voters Decide <read>

In Connecticut as in many other states, the governor has the sole power to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy until the next scheduled election. Two Democratic officials — Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and state Rep. James Spallone — want to change the law to require vacancies to be filled by special election.

They’re right. It makes more sense to let voters decide who replaces a senator unable to finish his or her term than that constituency of one, the governor…

Changing the law to provide for a special election in the event of a midterm Senate vacancy makes the most sense.

Nary a word in the article about costs, just benefits. What is the difference between a Special Session that costs $10,000 a day for a couple of days vs. a Special Election that costs several million? We can think of several:

  • $10,000 a day is reasonable for dealing with multi-million dollar issues.
    Millions for a Special Election is reasonable for dealing with multi-billion dollar issues.
  • The costs and benefits of the Special Session will be born by all State Taxpayers.
  • The cost of the Special Election will primarily fall on Towns.
  • The direct financial beneficiaries of the Special Election would be the media. Considering campaign expenditures, we can expect those benefits could run in the neighborhood of $10,000,000 to $20,000,000.

(Note: We favor Special Elections for Senate vacancies. However, in considering all proposals we should consider all the costs and benefits. Considering the billion dollar decisions Senators its worth it to let the people decide).

Once again, its a natural human tendency:

  • When we are in favor of something, we ignore the costs, no matter how great.
  • When we are against something, we highlight the costs, no matter how small.

Update:  According to the Republican-American the estimate for a Special Election: <read>

Additionally, GOP lawmakers argued that a special election would be costly to towns and cities. The legislature’s budget office estimated a statewide election to fill a vacancy would cost $6 million.

Update: Towns bemoan cost of special Senate election <read>

Now that Massachusetts is about the exercise the law, Town Clerks are concerned.  We wonder if those same untimely concerns will surface in Connecticut the 1st time we need to exercise our new law?

The election to determine Sen. Edward Kennedy’s successor will cost cities and towns more than $5 million, and town clerks aren’t thrilled.

The upcoming special primary and election will cost individual communities thousands, an expense they hadn’t planned for.

Framingham, for instance, will spend more than $55,000 on the election and primary, with the state expected to reimburse the town about $13,000, or $6,500 for each event.

The Massachusetts Town Clerks Association has sent a letter to the secretary of state to expedite printing of absentee ballots, and there’s been discussion about having the state pay for the whole election.

Once again, we are in favor of the law and believe a Senate seat is worth a vote of the people and worth the small additional insurance of a post-election audit.

Update from MA:  Auditor: Costs for special Senate election are an unfunded mandate <read>

“The state law requiring this special election imposes a significant cost on cities and towns at a time when they can least afford it,” DeNucci said in a statement. “I request that my legal determination lead to full state funding of these costs.”

A 1980 state law requires that state laws imposing new costs on local governments must either be fully funded by the state, or subject to voluntary local acceptance. Local officials, struggling with local aid cuts and an erosion of revenues tied to the recession, are wondering how they will pay costs tied to the Dec. 8 primary and the Jan. 19 special election to fill the seat held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

DeNucci says the $7.2 million estimate covers the cost of wages for election day workers and law enforcement personnel, with costs rising higher when other expenses are factored in, such as the costs of certifying nomination papers, setting up and breaking down polling places, printing voting lists, programming voting equipment and rental and interpreter expenses.


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