Attempts to update legislation that some felt would lead to increasing taxation of properties owned in New Haven by Yale University have been shelved — for now.
Instead, proponents of such legislation are pursuing a new strategy.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said Wednesday that he “believes Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is exploring an executive order” to study the issue of taxing buildings that are owned by Yale and used for research purposes.
Looney said the Senate was ready to “introduce an amendment itself” proposing a similar study to a bill that had passed the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, paving the way for the city of New Haven to be able to tax some of Yale’s properties.
Attempts to reach Malloy on Wednesday evening to talk about the possible study weren’t successful. But Looney said it is his understanding that the study would look at the states of California, where Stanford is located, and Massachusetts, the home of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Looney said Stanford and MIT are “leaders” in the field of academic projects that eventually “spin-off into becoming commercial projects. Yale is an emerging leader.”
Looney continued that it would be helpful for Connecticut to take a look at what tax structure California and Massachusetts have already put into place with Stanford and MIT as Connecticut begins to head down the road of studying its future relationship with Yale.
The fact that the governor is apparently planning to commission his own study, Looney said, meant the Senate would back off its own plans to call for a study.
A bill that would pave the way for the city of New Haven to be able to tax some of Yale University’s property was approved 28-22 by the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee during the current General Assembly session.
Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, said the bill sought to clarify the difference between educational property and commercial property owned by the university.
But Yale, in testimony submitted to the state Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, said it already invests considerable resources and money in New Haven; tax exemption law has long been settled and the proposed bill is unconstitutional.
In its statement, Yale said it already pays property taxes on its commercial properties and is already the fifth largest taxpayer in New Haven. In addition, the university said it contributes to the community and helped create 60 companies attracting $1 billion in investment to New Haven.
“This legislation is a step backward,” the university said in the statement. “It would diminish Yale’s ability to invest in the community and discourage faculty from launching companies (or staying in New Haven). It is ultimately an attack on nonprofit colleges and universities that are among the best assets in Connecticut.”
Lemar admitted that the bill is controversial mostly because Yale’s tax exempt status is different than the tax exempt status of most universities. However, like those other universities, there’s no intention to tax educational buildings or dormitories, he said.
Additional legislation that would have allowed the state to tax Yale University’s estimated $25.6 billion endowment was never called for a vote during the current session.
New Haven lawmakers had been pushing for both pieces of legislation this session.