Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she doesn’t support a progressive income tax.
But would she veto it? “Never, say never,” she said.
This mixed-message given during the question and answer session of a 3:30 press conference Tuesday was followed by her prepared remarks in which she explained how the General Assembly can pass her budget—with a 7 percent increase in spending—without raising taxes.
Then she said Democrats were willing to trade the progressive income tax last week for a $350 million increase in spending over the 7 percent she proposed. Speaker James Amann, D-Milford, said at a 4 p.m. press conference Tuesday that Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero made that proposal. Then, Cafero made a special trip to the Capitol Press Room around 5 p.m. to deny making the proposal, saying he wasn’t even in the room when the offer was put on the table. He said Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, made that offer.
The fiscal back and forth was enough to make one dizzy.
The Senate was supposed bring out the tax package Tuesday followed by the House.
Senate Minority Leader Louis DeLuca, R-Woodbury, observed that “if they had enough votes to pass it we would be out there on the floor for a vote.” As of 5:20 p.m. the Senate was still in recess. The Senate has been in recess since about 12:20 p.m.
What’s the point of bringing out a tax package Rell is likely to veto?
Amann said there’s 8 days left in the session and no compromise on the spending side of the budget. “So we decided to go forth with our tax package today,” he said.
Amann said he’s argued from day one they didn’t need to raise as much money as Rell initially proposed in February, but Rell put an income tax increase on the table and now she can’t take it back. Amann said his caucus wants its first shot in 17-years to fix the income tax structure by making it progressive.
What do Democrats from wealthy towns think? Amann said the Fairfield County delegation has told the caucus that the break even point for proposed income tax increases need to be close those with an annual income of $250,000 a year. Rep. Cam Staples, D-New Haven, said they did better than that by raising the break even point to $272,000 and evening out the cliffs in the estate tax.
Staples said the tax package raises $350 million in taxes in the first year of the budget and about $350 million in the second year of the budget.
But Democrats said they’re not going to stop at a tax package. They said they will go forward with bills that will give them equal power over the state’s bonding agenda and spending cap.
Currently, Rell is the only one with power to set the bonding agenda, which essentially is the state credit card. Legislators want to be able to sit at the table with Rell and agree on which projects get funded and which ones don’t.
Majority Leader Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said last week Rell used her power over the bond agenda to try and pick-off votes that would override her veto of the Department of Social Services bill.
Democrats said they also want to redefine the spending cap so they don’t need a declaration from Rell, which they currently need to exceed the spending cap.