Property tax reform is talked about every year by the state’s elected officials, but when it comes time to doing something about it, nothing ever happens. Republican lawmakers said Wednesday that 2007 will be different. State Senator David Cappiello, R-Danbury, (pictured) said every year municipalities come to the state for money to help relieve the property tax burden on their constituents, but property taxes continue to go up. He said instead of having municipal leaders beg the state for more money the lawmakers should eliminate the property tax and give municipalities the power to raise their own revenue through local sales taxes or conveyance taxes. At the moment the property tax is the only tax Connecticut’s 169 towns have the power to levy. But the state could grant them more, Republicans said.
State Senator Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, who had just come from a meeting with selectmen and elected officials in the 15 communities he represents, said local leaders were eager for more options to get citizens out from under the property tax burden. He said an income tax credit is of no value to people who don’t pay income tax, but are still shouldered with increases in their property tax. What about a tax on millionaires like Democrats have proposed in the past?Cappiello said an increase in the income tax for the state’s wealthiest citizens wouldn’t even come close to covering the states property taxes. According to a 2003 report on tax reform, the statewide property tax levy was approximately $6 billion in 2002-03. The state income tax generated was $4.3 billion followed by the sales tax at $3.1 billion for those same years. The 2003 Blue Ribbon Commission Report on Tax Reform concluded, “One of the methods to reduce over reliance on the property tax is to enable municipalities to generate revenue from other means.” But it felt the best way to get there was through regional cooperatives. The report concluded, “The commission believes that local-option taxes on a municipality-by-municipality basis in a small state like Connecticut are generally counterproductive—they tend to foster tax competition between communities and make high-tax towns that opt for additional taxes less competitive.” State Senator John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said essentially their main proposal was to increase the state income tax and have it be filtered down to the cities and towns. That’s hardly, an out of the box idea because it still filters the money through the state, McKinney said. State Senator Judith Freedman, R-Westport, said Republican’s will use this proposal to get the debate started. “I have come to the conclusion that there is no single method of property tax relief that will satisfy the needs of every community. We need to think out of the box,” she said.Heidi Green, president of 1,000 Friends of Connecticut, a group that advocates for smart growth said she applauds the Republicans for starting the conversation, but worries about the land use issues it may create. She said towns that rely on a local income tax may want to attract higher income people by building big houses and towns that rely on the sales tax will try to entice lots of retail business. She said property taxes should be part of the balance, just not as much as they are now.