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New Haven Mayor John DeStefano (pictured) and Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez said Monday that Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s proposed municipal property tax cap will not help their communities.

DeStefano said New Haven’s budget is going up 5.7 percent because debt service is going up 15 percent, health insurance for municipal employees is going up 8 percent, pension costs are up 11 percent and energy costs are up 17 percent. He said under the governor’s budget proposal state aid is up $5 million or 2.5 percent.

Rell’s proposed 3 percent cap wouldn’t help lower any expenditures in local budgets, he said. Property tax relief “is a little more complicated than a cap.”

He said the state needs to implement a universal health care plan, adopt an energy proposal, and fully fund municipal aid programs like PILOT, or payment-in-lieu-of-taxes to reduce local expenditures.

Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez said limiting a city’s only way to increase taxes is “not true property tax reform.”

Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said Rell’s cap proposal “points to a problem without offering a solution.”

What is the solution?

DeStefano said a more regional approach to government would be helpful. He said the state Bond Commissions approach to funding multi-town projects needs to be improved. He said there are cost-savings that can be realized this sort of approach.

The legislature’s Planning and Development Committee passed legislation to change the Bond Commission’s philosophy when it comes to multi-town projects. The committee also passed tax reform legislation on March 23 that includes a significant increase in state funding for local education, including special education; full funding of the payments to reimburse towns for taxes lost on state-owned lands, private colleges and hospitals; two incentive grants to foster cooperation in municipal service delivery and development, and new programs to increase the state’s ability to plan for both physical and economic growth. The bill will now go to the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Commission for approval. This legislation has not yet become part of the debate, but legislators seem to know it’s there.

Christine Stuart photo
Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said it’s positive the governor is talking about property tax initiatives, but she’s not being truthful about her proposals. He said she’s made the public believe her income tax increase is all going to education “when 60 percent of the money is going toward something else.”

Rell’s spokesman Chris Cooper said the governor’s proposals are “balanced and well-thought out,” and “will deliver real tax relief.” He said property tax reform is a concept Democratic leadership supports and needs to address. He said at least Rell has come to the table with a proposal. “I guess the Democrats are too busy with other issues,” Cooper said. 

Click here to listen to Rell’s own response.

The Democrats have applauded Rell for addressing property tax reform, but have found fault with the way it’s been proposed. When asked if they would increase Rell’s proposed income tax to support their proposals, Democrats dodged the question. They said there’s a legislative process that needs to be followed. The Democrats Appropriations Committee budget will be coming out soon and the tax package from the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee will follow.