As the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee public hearing got underway Monday, it was clear that the states whopping budget deficit estimated between $6 billion and $8.7 billion weighed heavily on lawmakers minds.
At one point during Monday’s testimony, Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said he was tired of the “don’t tax us, tax the other guy,” rhetoric.
“What tax increases would you support?” McDonald asked Joseph Brennan of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.
Brennan who testified against six of the seven bills before the Finance Committee Monday, said his organization, which represents 10,000 businesses in the state, is opposed to any tax increase that hurts the economy and the growth of business in the state.
Peter Kent of Bicron Electronics who testified along with Brennan said government should seek to be more efficient like business.
McDonald responded by saying government is not a for profit entity. He said it does things that private enterprise does not want to do.
Sen. Eileen Daily, D-Westbrook, followed up by asking what the business organization wants the state of Connecticut to do. Do you want us to operate Correctional facilities or nursing homes?
Brennan said it’s his job to steer the committee in the right direction so it doesn’t make an already bad situation worse.
After the exchange, Brennan said “I don’t blame them for being frustrated.”
He said he thinks some of the legislation raised by the committee Monday was problematic because it starts taxing services previously exempt from taxes, such as legal services and public accounting. When faced with similar circumstances in the late 1980s the state began taxing a number of services and the state lost 160,000 jobs during that period, Brennan said.
“We have to be much more careful in that we have said raising taxes should only be a last resort,” Brennan said. He said he would like to see the cuts come before lawmakers start thinking about increasing taxes.
McDonald said he would like to see people opposing cuts or tax increases come to lawmakers with constructive ideas.
Brennan said the legislature dictates that the public adhere to its public hearing rules and testify on the list of bills on the agenda, however, he didn’t mind the back and forth with legislators because it gave him more than his three-minutes to talk about his organizations position.
“The worst thing that can happen is you talk for three-minutes, the bell rings, and no one asks a question,” he said.