Following the conflict that marked Tuesday night’s televised gubernatorial debate, the two leading candidates for the position found common ground on the issue of local tax options at a forum hosted by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities Wednesday morning at the Convention Center.
Both the major party nominees said they would support a local option tax for cities and towns. If passed, a local option tax would allow cities and towns to levy their own taxes on hotels or even an additional sales tax for goods sold in the cities or towns. Currently, under state law municipalities can only impose taxes on properties.
A bill that would have allowed for a local tax option passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year but never made it before the Senate.
“I’ve always supported local option taxes,” Democratic nominee Dannel Malloy said outside the convention center ballroom. “It’s one way we diversify the tax base for municipalities.”
And for his part, Republican nominee Tom Foley said that while he had no specific opinion on how municipalities should implement local option taxes, he agreed with the idea on a philosophical basis.
“I don’t see why the state is telling cities and towns what to do,” Foley said. “There is no public interest served by the state restricting the towns’ ability to raise revenues.”
Only third party candidate Tom Marsh opposed the local option tax.
“By giving us the right to tax ourselves they’re giving us the sword to cut our own throats,” he said.
Marsh, who is the First Selectman of Chester, also criticized his opponents for making unrealistic promises to the group of municipal leaders in the face of a massive state budget deficit.
“We’re looking at Armageddon here,” he said of the deficit, adding that, unlike his opponents, he felt the issues were too serious for “sugar-coating.”
“There will be cuts,” he said.
Despite their agreement on the local tax options, the forum wasn’t without some squabbling between the two front-runners. Responding to Foley’s assertion that he had been vague on removing limitations on cities and towns Malloy said, “Vague? In the dictionary your picture is next to that word.”
After the discussion devolved into an argument, with all three candidates talking over one another, a frustrated audience member stood up and shouted, “Stop wasting my time will you? Just answer the question.”