Christine Stuart photo

A panel of experts in tax law, tax accounting, tax policy, economics and business finance convened for the first time Monday to start the process of examining the state’s tax code for the first time in 25 years.

“The world economy has changed,” Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee Co-Chairwoman Patricia Widlitz said. “The way we do business has changed and it just occurred to us that instead of tweaking the system we really need to do an in-depth study.”

Sen. John Fonfara, the other co-chairman of the committee, joked that the room full of lobbyists are hoping that none of the changes to the tax code that may be considered “ever happen.”

The last time the legislature took a comprehensive look at its tax code was back in 1989-90. One of the chairs of that panel was Bill Cibes, who once chaired the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee.

Cibes who attended the group’s first meeting on Monday said his panel looked closely at the sales tax, corporation tax, and the potential of an income tax. That group’s work, Cibes said, made it easier for former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker to conclude the only way to get the state out of the deficit it was in was to implement an income tax. Weicker went forward with an income tax in 1991, a year after the panel concluded its work.

Cibes said the state is still struggling with deficits because the statutory spending cap makes it necessary to find new revenue sources.

He recommended that the panel and its consultants look at the work his task force did back in 1989-90 before moving forward with their examination.

The legislature set aside $500,000 to hire an accounting firm to help it understand the state’s tax code.

The 15-member panel also elected former Greenwich Sen. William Nickerson and former New Haven Rep. Bill Dyson as co-chairman of the group.

Dyson, a Democrat, did not attend Monday’s meeting, but Nickerson, a Republican from Greenwich, made it clear that he was not interested in partisan politics.

“I don’t know. I don’t want to know and I don’t need to know any persons party registration,” Nickerson said. “That is not part of our function at all.”

He added that “we’re here to do a task oriented job.”

The panel will meet again Oct. 23, which will give the state time to choose an accounting firm as the consultant.

No lawmakers are voting members of the committee. The following is a list of all the committee members:

Anika Singh Lemar, Clinical Associate Professor, Yale Law School
Lou Schatz, Partner, Shipman & Goodwin
Tiana Gianopoulos, Senior Counsel, Day Pitney
Don Marchand, Partner, Ivy, Barnum & O’Mara
John Soto, President/Owner, Space-Craft Manufacturing
Yolanda Kodrzycki, V.P. and Director, New England Public Policy Director
Alan Clavette, CPA, Clavette & Company, LLC
Robert Testo, Principal, R.J. Testo & Associates
John Elsesser, Town Manager, Town of Coventry
Bill Dyson, Former O’Neill Endowed Chair, CCSU
Bill Nickerson, CEO, Hoffman Management
Howard K. Hill, Founder, Howard K. Hill Funeral Services
Al Casella, Partner, Murtha Cullina
Marian Galbraith, Mayor, City of Groton
Bill Breetz, Connecticut Urban League Initiative, Inc.

The three alternates are:
Melinda Agsten, Partner, Wiggin & Dana
David Nee, Board Member, CT Voices
Ofelia Matos, Budget Director, City of Waterbury