It will cost the state about $2.2 million in revenue starting in 2018, but several members on the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee felt it would eliminate inequity in the current tax structure and help municipalities.
The bill approved with a 36-14 vote Thursday by the committee would see the state give up any admissions tax from ticket sales at numerous venues throughout the state. At the same time, it would also allow the municipalities to implement their own admissions tax up to 10 percent on any of the venues.
Currently, certain venues like the XL Center in Hartford and some nonprofit theater groups, are exempt from the admissions tax.
Rep. Chris Davis, R-East Windsor, said it highlights what’s wrong with state tax policy.
“We have exemptions then we remove those exemptions when someone comes up here and asks us,” Davis said.
He said he’s open to the idea of allowing municipalities to use the tax to raise revenue locally.
However, his colleague, Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said it’s a “wholesale” change in tax policy, which shouldn’t be taken lightly or happen without a larger debate.
The substitute language, which becomes the bill, was not available for committee members before they voted on the bill.
Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, said it does remove the unfair advantage some theaters had over the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford, which was one of the venues that paid the admissions tax to the state and had been the focus of the original bill.
According to lawmakers, the local legislative body would have to vote to impose the admissions tax on a venue in their city or town. This would give Hartford, which is expected to complete construction of a minor league ballpark on May 17, an opportunity to generate some revenue to pay off some of the bonds used to fund the project. A separate bill that would have given Hartford the proceeds from the admissions tax on the stadium is still pending.
Rep. Buddy Altobello, D-Meriden, worried the bill was too broadly drafted and could impact school plays or basketball games at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs.
“It’s not the intent of the committee to tax the high school play,” Rep. Jeff Berger, co-chairman of the committee, said.