HARTFORD, CT — The Black and Puerto Rican caucus said Tuesday that it’s still weighing its budget priorities and is aware that its 24 members could sway debate this year.
All it takes is five members in the House and one in the Senate to kill a bill and there’s always something objectionable in a bill as large as the state budget.
So where does the caucus stand on increasing revenues or eliminating tax credits?
“I think revenues have to be a part of the conversation,” Rep. Christopher Rosario, D-Bridgeport, said.
Rosario, who chairs the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, said his constituents are concerned about the “deep cuts” in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget that are going affect them.
“We understand we have to pay for those programs and revenues have to be part of the conversation,” Rosario said.
Is increasing the income tax on Connecticut’s wealthiest residents part of that conversation too?
“That’s something that we’re looking at,” Rosario said.
Rosario was unable to elaborate beyond that. He said the caucus is still debating whether to support that type of proposal.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, and Sen. President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, have said they plan to let the chairs of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee decide which taxes should be included in a legislative budget proposal.
The two Democratic co-chairs of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee have expressed an interest in broadening the sales tax base and possibly lowering the rate, but have not hinted that they are talking about increasing the income tax.
“We have not had those discussions,” Rep. Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, said Tuesday regarding an income tax increase.
Rojas co-chairs the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. He said the chairs are discussing broadening the sales tax and possibly lowering the rate to increase revenues. That conversation will get bigger in the coming weeks as they look to put together a legislative revenue package.
Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, said the conversation is “really big right now” and the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus is working with Rojas and Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, on many revenue generating ideas.
“Let’s talk about all the millionaires that are making tons of money, where is that money and how can we generate some revenue off that,” McGee said.
Connecticut’s list of billionaires on the Forbes list increased this year to 17. That’s a year after two moved their residences from Greenwich to Palm Beach, a move that was used as evidence that Connecticut could no longer rely on revenue to solve its budget problems.
In 2016, lawmakers, many of whom were running for re-election, relied solely on spending cuts to balance the state budget and less than a year later saw its deficit increase from $1 billion to $1.7 billion.
“We do not want to tax our way out of a deficit,” McGee said. “We want to keep in mind there are still working poor people here in the state of Connecticut, but we also realize we don’t want to tax our seniors in order to close a deficit.”
He said they don’t want to tax their way out of a deficit, but they also want to step away from the more traditional ways of raising revenue. McGee refused to give an example of one of the “innovative” revenue approaches the caucus was debating.
Rosario said it’s inevitable that there will be spending cuts this year, but “we have to make sure we hold the line”