We are four weeks into the legislative session and as is typical for this time of year, we have been busy reading over numerous bill proposals — many that make sense, and many that are head scratchers.
Many proposals from the Democratic legislators feature large tax or fee increases for Connecticut residents hidden under the guise of “regionalism.” Their proposals are to regionalize schools, health departments and vehicle property taxes, along with a one mill statewide property tax increase on each and every property owner in the state (S.B. 431).
This regionalization would ultimately cost taxpayers more money because, for example, if we send our vehicle taxes to the state Department of Revenue Services — instead of to our local municipality as is currently done — the DRS will take those funds and redistribute them throughout the state as they choose, instead of sending it directly back to our towns. It is likely that they would focus on towns that are historically mismanaged, or bigger cities, like Hartford and Bridgeport, so that smaller and more organized towns, like Darien and Norwalk, would not get back even close to the amount we originally sent in; forcing us to further increase property taxes just to make up for the lost revenue.
If passed, these proposals would surely further stall our efforts to build economic growth in our state. According to a recent mailing that all legislators received from the Connecticut Business and Industry Associates (CBIA), our state’s lead business advocacy group, Connecticut is already the second most taxed state in the country, per capita and dead last in comparison with our New England neighbors on job recovery. We have only regained 93% of the jobs lost in the 2008 Recession since 2010. Maine has regained 127% of their jobs and Massachusetts tops the charts at 397%. We are the only state in the country not have regained at least 100% of our lost jobs.
In light of our ongoing fiscal challenges, growth must be our top priority. But the Democrats in the legislature are choosing to focus on burdening taxpayers to create more revenue, rather than using the common sense approach families and small businesses rely on; which is to look at how to cut expenses and create more accountability and fiscal sustainability — something we sorely need in Connecticut.
I oppose the “one size fits all” approach of regionalization and top-down heavy hand of more government. These proposals lack logical thought and documented metrics. It is simply not right to push another rushed effort to knee-jerk our way back to prosperity.
Nevertheless, though these proposals from the Democrats truly confound us, I still see optimism for the State of Connecticut this year. This optimism comes in the form of our new governor and entrepreneur, Ned Lamont. Not only did he speak of economic growth and “fixing this damn budget once and for all” in his opening day remarks on Jan. 9, but on a personal level he is approachable and willing to listen, to/respect, a difference of opinion. He has surrounded himself with good people who bring a broad range of experiences to the table — many of whom come with highly successful experiences in the private/financial sector. I feel particularly hopefully knowing that his wife, Annie, is a world-respected venture capitalist who understands economic principles and practicalities. All around, this is a refreshing change from the last eight years of leadership under Gov. Malloy.
We must not forget, however, that even under Gov. Lamont’s new leadership, there will still be a pull from the Democratic Socialists who are driving the debate in both legislative chambers. With these strong Democratic majorities elected to the legislature last year, it is essential that we all understand their plans and are aware of the changes that could ensue.
I encourage all residents to get in touch with their state representatives and senators to learn more about these issues, share their thoughts and explain how they could be impacted if these proposals become law.
Please feel free to contact me any time with questions or concerns about state government. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-240-8700. I would also love to see you at our next “Bring it Home” community conversation hosted by First Selectman Jayme Stevenson and I, at McGuane Field on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 9 a.m.
This article originally appeared in The Darien Times on February 13, 2019.