Christine Stuart photo

Republican Senators held a press conference early Wednesday morning to reaffirm their opposition to the new delivery sales tax proposed by the Democratic majority to fully fund PILOT, a grant to cities and towns for tax exempt property.

Local officials from New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford, and New London held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to offer their support for the proposal’s goal of fully funding PILOT.

Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Southport, said the Democrats created a new tax which will harm the same small businesses that they started out the session saying they would help by repealing certain taxes, like the business entity tax.

McKinney also wanted to know why local officials have their hands out asking for more money when last year the General Assembly passed a budget with “historic increases in municipal aid.”

“Where did all the money go?” McKinney asked. He said any municipality where 35 percent of the local budget comes from state aid should be audited. “Bridgeport’s mayor can’t even tell you how many employees he has,” McKinney said.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said McKinney was “absolutely right our cities are not managed as well as they should be.” He also noted that he controls just half of the budget, the rest is managed by the board of education, which will be conducting an audit, but does not report to the mayor’s office.

Christine Stuart photo

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano was quick to step to the microphone and announce he has 4,980 city employees. He also noted that New Haven, Hartford, and Bridgeport combined contain 50 percent of the state’s affordable housing stock and house most of the states sex offenders, ex-offenders, and drug addicts.

DeStefano said the debate was not about state aid. “It’s about working families paying higher taxes on their homes.” He said he doesn’t want to cut services or raise taxes

Speaker of the House James Amann, D-Milford, said he likes the goal of the proposal, however, “whether it sells is the big question.” Amann said he’s going to let Rep. Cameron Staples, D-New Haven, address the Democratic caucus next week regarding the issue.

“I think it’s a darn good idea in a robust year,” Amann said. He said last year it may have passed, but the downturn in the economy is driving the debate this year.

Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said his caucus was not sold on the delivery sales tax just yet, but “I’m not going to say its dead on arrival.” However, he did say he doesn’t think it has a tremendous chance this year.

But there still may be hope for the big city mayors.

James Finley, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said the state underestimated the proceeds from the sale of abandoned properties. He said he expects the state will bring in close to $90 million, when its budget estimated $40 million. He said the state could take the $50 million in additional revenue and put it toward PILOT grants to cities and towns.

The amount of revenue the delivery sales tax was expected to bring in was about $59.7 million.