Towns And Cities Say State Needs To Ease Pressure On Property Tax
By DON STACOM
March 26, 2013
As legislators edge closer to decision time on a new budget, Connecticut's towns and cities are stepping up their campaign to suspend or terminate state laws that they blame for driving up local property taxes.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, a lobbying organization, is also trying to get House Speaker Brendan Sharkey's MORE Commission to take on a broader, longer-term project: Overhauling the entire system of state and local taxes in Connecticut.
"We need to reform or modify the revenue system so it's fair to state taxpayers and local property taxpayers," said Jim Finley, CCM's executive director.
The organization's immediate goal is to head off Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposals to largely wipe out the car tax and convert nearly $100 million of municipal aid into education grants.
Mayors and first selectmen from around the state are preparing to show up at the Capitol on April 10 to press legislators for an alternative budget that would restore most of the aid to local governments and preserve the car tax.
They hope to win support from the MORE Commission, which is assigned to recommend ways to save money in local government by regionalizing some operations and services. The commission is supposed to issue a report in mid-spring, before the General Assembly's anticipated budget vote in early June.
Malloy contends that his car tax initiative would do away with the most regressive tax in the state; owners of identical cars pay vastly different taxes depending on where the vehicle is registered.
The governor also has said he's giving towns and cities as much as possible during this economic downturn, while still providing additional education aid and shoring up the state's 30 weakest school systems.
CCM warns that if the governor's proposal goes through without changes, the result likely would be higher municipal taxes, service cutbacks and layoffs in local governments. Either way, legislators and Malloy must come to some agreement over municipal aid and mandate relief before passing a budget.
Afterward, Finley hopes that the MORE Commission will continue its work after budget deliberations. CCM presented legislators with a 40-page report documenting why it believes municipalities cannot continue relying on the property tax as their chief revenue source. CCM has endorsed new revenue-sharing initiatives, and wants the state to carry a bigger share of regular education and special education costs. The report is at http://tinyurl.com/co7kwss.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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