HARTFORD, CT – One of the hot button items in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed two-year budget – increasing the state portion of the pistol permit fee from $70 to $300 and the initial 5-year pistol permit fee from $140 to $370 – will be the subject of a public hearing Thursday.
The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee will hold a hearing on the proposal at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Legislative Office Building.
The increase in fees for gun owners will bring in another $9 million to the state annually, according to the governor’s budget estimates.
More than 100 letters against the proposed hike have been submitted to the committee so far in written testimony.
One of them was from Nicholas Lupacchino from Eastford.
“When I first obtained my permit, the fees were only $35 for renewal,” Lupacchino wrote. “That soon doubled to the current rate of $70. Both my wife and I work full-time and have a young daughter to support.”
Lupacchino added: “This state is already tough to live in for the middle class, and we have a tough time renewing at the current rate. Raising the rate to $300 would make it almost impossible for me to renew my permit and could essentially remove my Constitutional right to protect my family,” Lupacchino wrote.
When Malloy proposed the fee increase in his budget on Feb. 8 word of the gun fee hikes spread quickly over the Internet and an action alert was included in the NRA’s daily newsletter.
Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora Schriro told the Appropriations Committee that they anticipate 45,326 permits will require renewal in 2018 and the increase is necessary because “many of our offices are understaffed and have been understaffed for quite some time.”
She said meeting all the registration deadlines is a challenge for the department.
However, Schriro also said the money from the increased pistol permit fees will go into the general fund and will be dispersed by the governor’s budget office “back to us or elsewhere.”
Malloy said that wasn’t necessarily so – that if the fees went through he believes a portion of the funds should be used to “modernize’’ the transaction and background check system and possibly “hire more people” to maintain it.
At the moment the state is raising about $2.2 million more in permit fees than it uses to operate the firearm licensing unit. According to budget numbers, first reported by the Republican American, pistol permit fees raised $12.3 million between 2013 and 2016. During that same time period the state police spent about $10.1 million on its licensing and firearm unit.
The governor said the hike in fees would bring it in line with what it costs to get a gun permit in New York City.
But at a press conference on Feb. 17, legislators and lobbyists for groups such as the National Rifle Association pointed out that neighboring states fees are far less than those in Connecticut.
“Here’s the truth,” Christopher Kopacki, National Rifle Association liaison for the state of Connecticut, said at the press conference. “Under Malloy’s tax hike, Connecticut residents would be paying more than nine times what our neighbors in Rhode Island pay for a permit. Nearly three times what residents in New York State pay and 37 times what residents in New Hampshire pay.
“Our neighbors in Vermont and Maine don’t pay anything – as permits are not required in those states,” Kopacki said.
At that same press conference, Connecticut Citizens Defense League President Scott Wilson said there are other reasons – besides the big hike in permits fees – that the governor’s plan is a bad idea.
“When you have a firearm and you shoot it, you want to train to be responsible with it, you’re going to buy ammunition – that’s tax revenue for the state,” Wilson said.
He said he didn’t believe the revenue estimates in the governor’s budget proposal.
“If you do not have a pistol permit, you cannot buy a gun, you cannot buy ammunition, you cannot train with it. The loss of ammunition tax revenue, the loss of firearm tax revenue, the loss of revenue from gun shops that could potentially close if there is a severe fall off of pistol permit holders would impact Connecticut even more,” Wilson said.
Asked about the opposition to his plan to hike fees recently, Malloy has said that his focus is on the bigger picture – closing a $1.7 billion budget deficit hole.
But, the governor added he “had no anticipation” that his original budget plan would be adopted as submitted.