Contributed photo
JR Romano (Contributed photo)

The new chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party isn’t wasting any time going to war with the Democratic majority.

JR Romano targeted House Speaker Brendan Sharkey’s district with a robo call this week asking his constituents to call the speaker’s office if they don’t like having their taxes raised.

“Speaker Brendan Sharkey has authored the two highest tax increases in the history of Connecticut and he believes it’s okay to just raise your taxes,” Romano said. “Have you had enough with Speaker Sharkey and his tax increase policies? Press 1 now to be connected to his Capitol office.”

According to Sharkey’s office about 20 people took the Republican chairman up on that offer and Sharkey himself personally answered some of the calls.

Instead of focusing on the $1.3 billion in tax increases in the budget, Sharkey and his colleagues have been focused on the property tax relief available to some residents through a redistribution of the sales tax.

ctnewsjunkie file photo
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey and Senate President Martin Looney (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

Sharkey accused Romano of trying to misinform the public, but Romano said Friday that it seems it’s the speaker who is lying.

Sharkey maintained that residents and businesses in Hamden who own cars will see a 20 percent cut in their car taxes next year, based on the town’s 2015 mill rate of 39.93. The new state budget caps the municipal car tax mill rate at 32 in 2016 and 29.36 in 2017. There was also legislation that requires Quinnipiac University to start paying property taxes on residential homes they own to house students off campus.

Sharkey said the callers he spoke to as a result of the robo call were very appreciative of getting student housing back on the tax rolls and were unaware of the car tax benefit.

Romano said those property tax breaks don’t make up for all the other tax increases the state approved in June when it passed a $40.3 billion, two-year budget and raised taxes by $1.3 billion.

“There’s no lie in that,” Romano said. “It’s a fact.”

The income tax is increasing, there’s a new tax on parking motor vehicles, and the cigarette tax is increasing, to name a few. The sales tax exemption on clothing and footwear during the upcoming annual tax free week has also been reduced to save the state about $136.8 million in the first year and $142.6 million in the second year of the budget.

Romano said those taxes may make the next election cycle a little more difficult, but it doesn’t make them any less real for Connecticut residents who have to pay them.

But Sharkey viewed the robo call as a personal attack during a year in which he’s not up for re-election.

He said the call was “unprecedented” and he couldn’t imagine the head of the Democratic Party placing similar calls to House Minority Leader Themis Klarides’ district.

“It’s a continuation of what I’ve been talking about this constant drumbeat of negative politicizing of anything and everything,” Sharkey said.

He said people can disagree about policy, but the robo call was a “hyper-negative personal attack” from a party that claims to be leading.