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Yesterday, we traveled up to Vermont for the 7th annual “Strolling of the Heifers“. It’s exactly what it sounds like — a parade of cows.

This year didn’t seem to have as many cows as last, but that could have been due to the weather. It was damp and misty in the morning and soon turned oppressively hot and humid. I’m not sure what the ideal weather for a cow is, but I’m guessing they’re not at their best in these conditions.

So, at the risk of turning PIAC into a weekend photo blog (And with this new layout I debuted last week, I can make the photos even larger — not always a good thing!), here’s this past weekend’s recap of the FREE entertainment…

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT
The parade stepped off about 15 minutes late, but word spread quickly among the crowd that the cows were ‘moo’ving and the excitement began to build. Notice the kid on the pogo stick out front. How he managed to bounce all the way up a street for the length of the parade astounds me. Have you ever tried one of those things? They’re darn near impossible…
Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT
YES! There’s nothing cooler than a huge fiberglass cow that’s sponsored by a make-up company. Is Udderly Smooth Udder Cream for people? Or is it for cows? I’m not really sure.
Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Spencer the Cow
Here come the real thing. Moo! I think Spencer was my favorite. Usually I like the brown cows (they make the chocolate milk), but Spencer looked pretty neat. Friendly too!
Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Gay & Lesbian Pooper Scoopers
After the cows paraded by, an eclectic mix of superheroes, all of indeterminable sexual orientation (not that there’s anything wrong with that), came around to scoop up the poop. They were, well, odd but par for the course in this part of Vermont.
Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT
Seems tractors are all the rage these days in parades — agricultural or patriotic. The funny thing is — the tractors were a lot more impressive in hoity-toity Connecticut. Go figure.
Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT
After the tractors came the bands…

I like how low-key things are in Vermont. Notice that neither group is wearing an uncomfortable uniform in hot and humid weather. I dunno, most of the bands in local parades (especially the school bands) look sloppy all on their own. Dressing them up isn’t going to change that, so why pretend?

The high school band in the second picture even did a little square dancing as they marched up the street. It was a lot more entertaining than watching a bunch of stiff, yet still out of step, marchers like we did for Memorial Day.

Musically, it was a little odd. They were playing “Hoe Down” from Copland’s Rodeo. For those that aren’t dorks that stayed in the high school band all four years like me, that’s the song from the “Beef… It’s what’s for dinner” commercials from the early 1990’s.

Hey with that at your back, it’s no wonder the cows were willing to march.

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Plastic Bag Monster!  AHHHHHHH!
Then the parade took a turn towards the edgy and controversial side. Yep, that’s a bag monster. It kills baby seals and suffocates birds. Nice, huh? Well, just be sure not to use plastic bags anymore.

Paper, apparently, is still okay in Vermont.
Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT
Some sort of hippie hand drum band or something. Not sure what their message was exactly — something “green” I’m sure — but they certainly made a lot of noise.

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT
Hey look, it’s Miss Vermont, Ashley Wheeler, sitting on a bale of hay! She looked a lot better when she was crowned.
Sometimes I wonder if these girls know the hardships of the job – I may be off base, but it looks like it’s taking a toll on her.
From her own blog, “I am not sure exactly what to expect but I am certain cows will be ’strolling’ down main street. I am contemplating dressing in black and white as to blend in with the heifers.”
I mean, I wouldn’t really like to go for a hay ride all dressed up. Would you? And is it just me or is it really stupid to wear white when you know you’re going to be sitting in a rusty trailer filled with a bunch of hay? Apparently, she didn’t know.
Really though, can a parade really be called a parade without at least one beauty queen swiveling her forearm like the real Queen?

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT
You know, when I was in elementary school, they didn’t teach us that “Composting saves landfill space and money.” We also didn’t make giant rotting fruit picket signs or gross hoop monsters that look like earthworms either. I think the schools should spend a little more time teaching kids to look both ways.

In the end though, these kids were *very* enthusiastic towards their cause.
Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Sometimes I wish I were more skilled with the hula-hoop.

A group of hula-hoopers made their way by us. One kid was really young. None of the pictures of him came out, so I used this one instead. There’s just something neat about people who can hula hoop with ease. The little kid was amazing.

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Country Bumpkin?  You decide.

I honestly don’t think she was wearing a costume. That’s just how they dress up there.

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — And King Nepture is here because...
What is happening here? I mean, seriously…

I like to think, with the octopus and all, that Vermont was just celebrating the Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup season a few days late. (You’d have to be a hockey fan to pick up that reference).

I dunno — just some more weird Vermont culture I guess. You have to admit, that is a pretty neat octopus though. Not sure what it has to do with cows, but still, it was an exciting finish to the parade.

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Nope, not talking about baseball today… Especially less than 24 hours since the Stanley Cup was awarded. Hello?

Today’s post asks “Has society really gone this far?

Apparently, it has.

Take a look at the video below. It’s from a, um, car accident a few days ago in the city of Hartford, Connecticut.

I’ll warn you — it’s a little graphic.

Now, an elderly man tumbling through the air is pretty disturbing on its own, but the fact that no one who saw the whole thing did anything, to me, is far more troubling.

According to the Chief of Police, Daryl Roberts, a 911 call apparently wasn’t even made.

In an unusual display of public anger, Hartford’s police chief Wednesday gave vent to his feelings about the recent violence afflicting his city and the lack of decency among residents.

“They hit a man, drive away and people walk by like nothing happened,” Roberts said. “It’s incredible how people could be so inhumane.”

Roberts said he still isn’t sure that anyone called 911. A patrol car heading east on Park Street came upon Angel Arce Torres as the officer was responding to another call.

Bryant Hayre, 37, of Hartford, had bought a pack of cigarettes Friday at Danny’s Grocery at 33 Park St. and then walked over to the accident scene.

“Whoever did this should be sent away for a long time,” Hayre said Wednesday. “It was as if he was a dog left in the street to die.”

Hayre said he didn’t try to help Torres because “people could see that he was conscious.”

“I’m not skilled enough when it comes to blood flowing or I would have helped him,” Hayre said.

Other bystanders speculated that people were afraid to get involved because they thought Torres had been shot or don’t feel comfortable talking to police.

“Everybody knew him, but nobody helped,” said Anthony Jenkins, 45, of 87 Park St. “I guess everybody is different. Some people are just out for themselves.”

I’ll admit, I won’t stop for a little fender bender or when I see someone back into another car in a parking lot — cars don’t bleed.

But something like this?! I can’t imagine just swerving around it.  Come on…

“Hey, look! Bleeding body in the road…”

Being one of the bystanders (hustlers?) loitering on the street corner , I dunno, I still think I would have gone out onto the road and stopped traffic. 

Something?!

Hey, at least no one tried to take his wallet, right? It’s terrible that I even have to say that.

It’s sad. Actually, it kind of makes me angry. I can’t help but think of our own accident on the highway last year.  It hardly compares to this, but not one car stopped. Not one.

In the end, the man, 78 year old Angel Torres is expected to survive. That’s good news.

The bad news is that he’s paralyzed.

That’s really sad.

You could tell he was in great shape for his age as he made his way across the street and now, well, he’ll spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

He even looked both ways!? I mean, come on…

When was the last time you saw someone under the age of twenty look both ways before crossing the street? Apparently that isn’t common knowledge anymore.

Hell, in my neighborhood the squirrels even look both ways?! The kids, well, they don’t.

But this poor guy did everything right and the two thugs that are responsible will likely get away with it and laugh about it for the rest of their lives…

And even if they do get caught, the punishment will likely only result in a traffic citation and a 48-hour license suspension.

Yeah, that’s justice.  Whatever…

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Mobil GasolineIt was just a year ago that I wrote my initial rant about the price of gas. May 10, 2007 to be exact.

At the time, it was $3.19 per gallon in my neck of the woods.

Media reports preached that breaking the $3 mark would change the driving habits of Americans.

I didn’t see any difference.

So, today, we officially hit the $4 mark in Connecticut.

I’m not complaining though.

When they’re not covering the typhoon in Myanmar or the earthquake in China, the news reports have been exactly the same as they were a year ago with catchy titles like “Pain at the Pump”.

I wouldn’t be shocked if they’re just recycling old archived stories — they could, few would notice.

Sure, the price has risen 81 cents for me in 12 months, but as with May of 2007, I still feel the same way:

…even with the price rising, it’s not affecting my budget at all. It’d have to raise at least another $2/gallon before I’d even have to reconsider my driving habits…

I went back and did a little research on my gasoline expenditures over the years. So far, in 2008, from January 1 thru May 15, I’ve spent $483.14 on gas. That works out to $24.87 per week. Not a budget breaker.

               Gasoline Expenditures  

          Year     Total        Per/Week 
          2008    $483.14        $24.87 
          2007    $402.11        $20.85 
          2006    $403.29        $20.91 
          2005    $463.27        $24.02

So, you can see, the upswing in the price of gas isn’t as significant as they make it out to be on the news — at least for those of us who don’t drive for a living.

A four dollar per week increase shouldn’t cripple your finances — I wish these folks they interview on the news could see the actual difference. For those smokers out there, that’s far less than a package of cigarettes. Think about that for a second…

I understand that the price of gas causes the price of food to go up as well (along with countless other consumables), but really, we’re talking very small amounts in the grand scheme of things.

So, again, I’m still not anywhere near the point that I’m about to change my driving habits. In fact, we’re planning a cross country driving vacation right now.

And I’m not even sure I still agree with my guesstimate of $5.19 per gallon being my limit. Hey, if the daily doomsday predictions in the media are correct and on target, we’ll see that price by Labor Day.

I’m not happy about it, but I’m also not about to cry poverty over it either.

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Property Taxes - Good Grief!When it comes to taxes, Connecticut is by far the worst state to live in.

I know, I know, everyone knows it’s expensive to live in New England, but Connecticut takes it up a notch from Massachusetts and Vermont.

Did you know that if you live in Connecticut, you have to pay local property taxes on your automobiles?

 It’s called a personal property tax. Roughly half of the country has a similar tax.

Making matters worse, in Connecticut, is that the tax on identical vehicles can swing wildly from town to town, based on the communities’ relative wealth. It’s not a state tax, it’s a local tax.

So my BMW may leave me with a yearly tax bill of $350 right now, but if I moved one town over, it would only be $100. One town in the other direction, my bill could be $500.

In the past I’ve seen figures for a generic car, like a Ford Taurus, where one owner will have to pay around $75 while another will have to pay in excess of $200. For the *exact* same car. Hardly a fair tax.

This is the main reason you see so many illegal Florida license plates up here. Tax fraud is rampant. And it’s not enforced, much to my dismay.

With three cars in our household, each July, the city comes looking for between $850 and $1000 dollars from us. Hardly chump change.

Now word comes in that our regular property taxes will be going up this year:

The Board of Finance is briefed on the city’s fiscal situation Monday in City Hall.

Most homeowners will see a property tax hike of at least $150 this year if the proposed budget eyed by the city’s Board of Finance is approved.

The $171.5 million spending plan that fiscal overseers appear poised to endorse this month would drive the mill rate up by 6 percent, officials said.

The City Comptroller said spending requests were up more than 8 percent to $177.3 million. But revenues, he said, are flat.

His department recommended cuts totaling $5.8 million that bring the increase to a more manageable 5 percent level.

But revaluation makes the pain greater.

Because almost all the property in the city is worth more than it was in 2002, up an average of 42 percent, the mill rate could drop from today’s 34.71 to 24.95 to bring in the same amount of money to city coffers.

The budget, though, requires a mill rate of 26.45 to bring in the necessary revenue to cover anticipated costs.

The Comptroller said that means most homeowners will pay more than $150 extra this year and some will pay much more than that, if their homes rose in value by significantly more than 42 percent.

Condominium owners are going to take some of the largest hits because their assessments generally rose much faster than single-family homes.

The finance board plans to adopt a budget April 22. A joint session of the City Council and finance commissioners will put the final seal of approval on a new budget in mid-May.

The budget takes effect July 1, when a new municipal fiscal year begins.

Thankfully it won’t break the bank for us, but I have a feeling, based on our 2007 tax assessment that jumped well over 50% from the 2002 assessment, we’re going to get hit with a big increase.

Hopefully next year as a result of the proposed lower mill rate and the fact that our cars will have depreciated another year, the city won’t tax them as high. If we could only be so lucky.

Even so, we’re looking at between $5000 and $6000 in property taxes alone next year.

Good grief.

I just hope the city uses the piles and piles of extra money wisely instead of building a “skate park” for skater dude thugs — which is actually the plan. Ugh…

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The Paper Bag lobbyest teamTimes are changing, for sure.

I’m not sure I remember the last time I saw a paper bag from the grocery store. Even those are taboo now.

It’s darn near impossible not to get dirty looks from the crunchy tree-hugging granola-eating Whole Foods crowd these days.

How on earth do kids make bookcovers for their text books now? What do they use? Really, I’d be curious to know. 

Anyway, there was an article by David Funkhouser in my local paper today about how the State is considering banning plastic bags.

Since their debut in supermarket checkout lines in 1977, plastic shopping bags have become the tote of choice.

Back then, plastic seemed like a good option: a way to stop cutting down so many trees to make all those paper bags. They take less energy and are less polluting to produce than paper. They’re lighter, easy to carry, reusable.

But they are also starting to look like the quintessential environmental nightmare. Shoppers use 100 billion a year in the U.S. alone, and they have become a universal symbol of a throwaway consumer culture — use them for a few minutes, then throw them out. And, like many things plastic, they last a long time — by some estimates, up to 1,000 years.

The bags wind up as litter, blowing in the wind, and tons of them float out to sea, where they pose a different kind of threat. Sea turtles, who love jellyfish but seem unable to tell the difference, eat them and die from suffocation or starvation. The bags also harm birds, dolphins and seals, environmentalists say.

Now, the legislature is considering a bill to ban them.

Which Pamela Rome is OK with.

Rome paused this week outside Whole Foods in West Hartford to rearrange groceries in a large paper sack. The store went plastic-bag-free last Saturday, and Rome said she does not mind at all.

Whole Foods likes to stay a little ahead of the curve: The company gave away tens of thousands of reusable bags — made from 80 percent recycled plastic bottles — as part of its nationwide campaign to wean its customers from the more disposable kind.

“I still use [some plastic bags], but I try to use reusable bags — when I remember to take them out of the trunk,” Rome said. “I’m trying to save the environment for my children.”

But clearly, a society without plastic bags will take some getting used to.

Kathy Velez of Hartford, who was shopping Tuesday with her young daughter at Wal-Mart on Flatbush Avenue, is not ready to give them up.

“To me, it’s harder if you have to bring the cloth bags in. I’m not a big fan of using those,” she said.

She tosses most of her plastic bags in the trash but like many people reuses some around the house. They’re handy for lining small wastebaskets, covering up stuff in the fridge, packing a lunch, collecting a few toys for your child to carry around, emptying litter boxes.

In parts of Africa, women weave the bags into baskets and sell them.

Valerie Rivera, Jessica Rodriguez and Yamarilyn Vega, all from Hartford, see the problem from both sides of the counter: They work as cashiers at Wal-Mart, and were outside after a shopping trip there Tuesday.

All three said shifting away from the plastic bags would slow things down at the checkout line.

“I would miss them,” Rivera said. “I use them as little garbage bags and for dirty diapers.”

Lindsay Mejnartowicz of Naugatuck works behind the counter at a Subway sandwich shop on Route 17 in Durham. She agrees that eliminating plastic would be less convenient for customers. Not to mention a little juicier.

Connecticut was one of several states last year to consider the mandatory recycling of plastic bags.

Although this year’s proposal would go even further and ban the bags completely, Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, co-chairman of the legislature’s environment committee, said he expects to see a compromise, perhaps a mandatory recycling provision.

The bags wind up as litter, blowing in the wind, and tons of them float out to sea, where they pose a different kind of threat. Sea turtles, who love jellyfish but seem unable to tell the difference, eat them and die from suffocation or starvation. The bags also harm birds, dolphins and seals, environmentalists say.

Now, the legislature is considering a bill to ban them.

Which Pamela Rome is OK with.

Rome paused this week outside Whole Foods in West Hartford to rearrange groceries in a large paper sack. The store went plastic-bag-free last Saturday, and Rome said she does not mind at all.

Whole Foods likes to stay a little ahead of the curve: The company gave away tens of thousands of reusable bags — made from 80 percent recycled plastic bottles — as part of its nationwide campaign to wean its customers from the more disposable kind.

“I still use [some plastic bags], but I try to use reusable bags — when I remember to take them out of the trunk,” Rome said. “I’m trying to save the environment for my children.”

But clearly, a society without plastic bags will take some getting used to.

Kathy Velez of Hartford, who was shopping Tuesday with her young daughter at Wal-Mart on Flatbush Avenue, is not ready to give them up.

“To me, it’s harder if you have to bring the cloth bags in. I’m not a big fan of using those,” she said.

She tosses most of her plastic bags in the trash but like many people reuses some around the house. They’re handy for lining small wastebaskets, covering up stuff in the fridge, packing a lunch, collecting a few toys for your child to carry around, emptying litter boxes.

In parts of Africa, women weave the bags into baskets and sell them.

Valerie Rivera, Jessica Rodriguez and Yamarilyn Vega, all from Hartford, see the problem from both sides of the counter: They work as cashiers at Wal-Mart, and were outside after a shopping trip there Tuesday.

All three said shifting away from the plastic bags would slow things down at the checkout line.

“I would miss them,” Rivera said. “I use them as little garbage bags and for dirty diapers.”

Lindsay Mejnartowicz of Naugatuck works behind the counter at a Subway sandwich shop on Route 17 in Durham. She agrees that eliminating plastic would be less convenient for customers. Not to mention a little juicier.

Connecticut was one of several states last year to consider the mandatory recycling of plastic bags.

Although this year’s proposal would go even further and ban the bags completely, Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, co-chairman of the legislature’s environment committee, said he expects to see a compromise, perhaps a mandatory recycling provision.

China has banned free plastic shopping bags as of June 1.

“We’re very much for mandatory recycling of plastic bags,” said Stan Sorkin, executive director of the Connecticut Food Association, which represents grocers and others in the food industry. The organization, however, opposes an outright ban.

“The grocery industry has been in the forefront and recognizes the role we must play in using and reusing plastic bags,” he said. “Everybody has had their eyes opened in terms of the environmental message … reduce, reuse, recycle.”

Most grocery stores these days sell reusable bags of canvas or recycled plastic, typically for 99 cents each. Some like Stop & Shop have set up bins where customers can recycle the disposable bags.

Whole Foods plans to end the use of disposable plastic grocery bags in all of its 270 stores in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom by Earth Day, April 22. Its paper bags are made from 100 percent recycled material, and the store offers refunds of 5 cents a bag to consumers who bring their own.

Wal-Mart started selling reusable bags for $1 in October, and the company is setting up recycling bins at most of its stores, company spokeswoman E.R. Anderson said. The company developed an effective recycling method and has recycled 97 million pounds of plastic, she added.

Anderson declined to speculate on what the company might do if Connecticut passes an outright ban.

Dropping plastic bags might seem a lightweight assault on environmental problems.

But proponents argue the change of mindset might be just as important.

“It’s a process of thinking beyond the purchase,” said Lisa Mastny, an editor at Worldwatch Institute, an environmental organization based in Washington. “It translates into a lot of other things. It ingrains in people the idea of thinking before buying. That hasn’t been in the American consumer consciousness.”

Plastic bags have yet to achieve the socially unacceptable status of fur coats or littering.

Like many consumer habits, this may come down to a matter of money.

Consider that when Ireland put a 15 cent tax on the bags in 2002, use of them dropped by 90 percent in a few months.

At the Durham Market on Route 17 in Durham, owner Chet Mounts says he would not mind cutting out the plastic.

But he notes that consumers may pay for the change: His paper bags cost him 8 to 10 cents each, as opposed to about 2 cents for plastic.

Over the past month, Mounts said, he has sold about 500 cloth grocery bags to his customers, “but I don’t see many coming back.”

“The consumer’s going to have to be retrained,” he said.

At the market’s checkout, part-time clerk Amy Ercolani of Durham agreed.

“People just need to adjust,” she said, with a hint of frustration. “People come in and get one item and want a bag.”

She herself has used cloth bags for years.

Meanwhile, eco-conscious shoppers like Pamela Rome will try to remember to grab the reusable bags before they hit the store.

“I’m getting better,” she said. “My kids remind me.”

For plastic, what about the sea turtles?

For paper, what about the rainforests?

For the re-usable, can I take a Target bag into a Walmart?

I’m not really sure where I stand on this issue. We use the re-usable “green” bags for the grocery store regularly now. It took a while to get used to them, but they’re actually a lot nicer than paper or plastic.

They hold a lot more, they have a flat rigid bottom, and they look kinda neat. On the downside, it feels a little weird walking in to a store with a bunch of empty bags tucked under you arm…

Which ever way they go, I’m sure some interest group will come along saying it’s hurting the environment even more regardless of the outcome.

The key is to leave the environment out of the marketing ploy to get people to change.

Change to the reusable ones because they’re simply better. Not better for the environment, just better period.

It’s a lot easier to swallow that way. For the turtles too.

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taxes.jpgGood news on the horizon for business owners in Connecticut it seems!

I’ve read numerous places that the best way to become wealthy is to own your own business.

Well, I’ve done that, and while I have earned a lot of additional income over the years, there have always been drawbacks. In Connecticut, the biggest drawback has been the “Business Entity Tax”.

Back in March of 2003, out of the blue, right in the midst of tax season, I received a bill from the Secretary of State for $250 for a Business Entity Tax.

At first I had no idea what this was all about. I’d been in business for six years at that point and had never had to pay the state a dime since incorporating.

I sucked it up and paid it thinking it’d be a one-shot deal and chalked it up as one of those losses you have to classify as a “cost of doing business”.

In 2004, I got the bill again. That’s when I did some research and learned that it was a tax for the sake of a tax. Huge companies in the state like Aetna, Northeast Utilities, ESPN, and even the WWE have to pay the state $250 just for, well, existing.

But so do little guys like me – where, on occasion, $250 is more than we bring in any given month. Chump change for the big guys, but a huge expense for super small business.

One of those great examples where the little guy gets screwed by a flat tax.

With March fast approaching, I’ve budgeted out the expense for 2008, but the news today indicates that I may just be able to hold on to that income this year.

Lawmakers Seek To End Business Entity Tax
By JANICE PODSADA | The Hartford Courant
3:49 PM EST, January 17, 2008

The secretary of the state and a bipartisan group of state legislators said Thursday they will seek to abolish Connecticut’s annual $250 business entity tax during this year’s legislative session, which begins Feb. 6.

“This is an onerous tax. It’s really just a tax for existing,” Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said. The tax was created six years ago as a stopgap measure to balance the state budget, she said.

“In 2002, we had a $96 million deficit. For the past four years we’ve had surpluses,” she said. “Before we get too used to this tax, let’s get rid of it.”

More than 118,000 businesses pay the annual business entity tax, which brings the state about $30 million a year. The amount represents about one-sixth of 1 percent of the state’s annual $18 billion budget. Bysiewicz said making up the $30 million difference should be relatively easy.

Republican policy makers attempted to abolish the tax last year, including the proposal as part of a budget amendment package. But it was defeated.

This year, abolishing the tax will be in a separate bill, which should increase the odds of its passage, both Democratic and Republican legislators said.

Small businesses, which create many new jobs, are unfairly burdened by the tax, said Bonnie Stewart, vice president of government affairs with the Connecticut Business & Industry Association.

Business registration fees are relatively low in Connecticut. For example, it costs $60 to register a limited liability company or limited liability partnership in the state. Corporations pay more. But at the end of the year businesses, regardless of size, must pay the $250 tax whether or not they made money or even launched their enterprise.

“I hear from many people who say they formed a company, but didn’t pursue it. And then they get this bill in the mail,” Bysiewicz said.

“While $250 may not seem like a lot, for our members, all of whom are small businesses, it can mean a month’s electricity bill or a month’s insurance,” Frank Alvarado, director of the New Haven and Willimantic offices of the Spanish American Merchants Association said.

“When we get that bill, it’s the one time we think about doing business in another state,” Theodore C. Hsu, owner of Horizon Services Co., a cleaning and supply business in East Hartford, told participants. “I talk to many other business owners, and they see this as being gouged. It stops their spirit.”

A month ago, the State of Connecticut launched a plan to help the poor subprime borrowers out there. I was upset then.

Now, as I’m sure anyone reading this already knows since I’m a few days late, the Federal Government is following suit.

And yes, I’m still upset.

The lending companies gambled by lending money to people who couldn’t afford it. Subprime, adjustable rate, call it whatever you want. The fact is, they loaned money to people who couldn’t afford it. In a lot of ways, they deserve what they’re getting right now.

On the flip side, there are the borrowers. President Bush calls them homeowners. Homeowners who shouldn’t lose their homes. Homeowners we all should feel sorry for. Homeowners that people like you and me should bail out.

But that’s the thing. These “homeowners” took a gamble too. And you know what? They lost.

If the homeowners can’t afford the new adjusted rates, or weren’t wise enough refinance, well, they lost. If the mortgage companies made poor decisions and chose to loan large sums of money to people that they knew couldn’t afford it, well, they lost too. Plain and simple. Sucks to be them. Both of them.

But now the plan is for my tax money to go to bail these “suckers” out. Another blogger, I forget who, said that people who went the traditional 30-year fixed route should get some sort of tax credit or something. I couldn’t agree more.

I took out my loan in September of 2002. Just over 5 years ago — right when all of these “teaser-rates” started being advertised so heavily. I looked at it and knew that it was a gamble. A gamble not worth taking.

I pat myself on the back for my decision 5 years later. It *was* the correct move. But now, the carpet is being swept out from under me. I should have gone with an ARM. I’d have more money in my wallet today — and as the President is planning, for another 5 years to come.

We, who went the 30-year route, played by the rules, paid a little more on our mortgages, and then got screwed in the end. That’s messed up.

Further, this is just delaying things. Okay, fine, the folks in this situation may get another 5 years on their mortgage rates. But what then? It’s inevitable — they can’t afford their homes. Deep down, I hope finally get what they should have had coming this year.

I guess I just don’t like it when losers take advantage of the system and come out winners. But it seems that’s the ‘new’ American way…

From today’s Hartford Courant…

The state of Connecticut is unveiling a $50 million program to help first-time homebuyers caught up in the subprime mortgage mess.

The Connecticut Housing Finance Authority is offering to help low- and moderate-income borrowers by refinancing their adjustable rate, subprime mortgages into 30-year, fixed rate loans. The authority will begin taking applications on Dec. 10.

Subprime mortgages are typically targeted at borrowers with risky credit.

First-time homebuyers who cannot make their mortgage payment and currently live in the home can apply for the refinancing. The housing authority will work with the homeowner to make sure the new mortgage payments fit with their budgets.

About 300 to 400 families are expected to be helped by the program.

This really irks me.

Not just from a taxpayer perspective.

Take the $50 million and divide it by the 400 families which the program will help. That works out to $125k for each family.

That’s about what I owe on my home right now.

But you know what? Because I was smart when I went out and found a mortgage as a first-time homebuyer, I didn’t go for an adjustable rate. I was informed of the risks, and I wasn’t willing to take them. Essentially, the risks outweighed the benefits.

Based on the past few months, it was a wise move.

But now, it was evidently the wrong move. I could have been paying a nice limited time offer promo-rate mortagage bill all this time (interest-only would have cut my mortgage bill in half?!) and the State would have come to bail me out in the end. That… is not right.

I don’t know the specifics of the program, but I truly hope that these folks end up paying well beyond the traditional 30 years. And that the little equity they may have in their homes is wiped clean.

Can You Dig It?

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