HARTFORD, CT — None of the budget proposals increase revenues as much as a group of nonprofits, education providers, advocacy organizations, and labor unions would like.
The group is calling themselves the “All Hands on Deck” coalition and it would like to see the General Assembly raise revenue on wealthy individuals and corporations.
At a Legislative Office Building press conference Wednesday, they called on lawmakers to increase the income tax on the top income earners a half percent, reduce corporate tax expenditures by 10 percent, impose a penalty on large employers who don’t pay their employees $15 an hour, expand the sales tax base, legalize marijuana, tax sweetened beverages, and institute tolls.
The group acknowledged that resurrecting tolls wouldn’t generate revenue until at least 2024.
Ann Pratt, spokeswoman for the Connecticut Citizens Action Group, said they will continue to put out the message that there are people in the state who want these revenues to increase and “we are urging our representatives to hear us.”
She said these revenue solutions give them an opportunity to look at other alternatives.
However, at the moment it seems as if Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Democratic lawmakers are arguing over whether to force municipalities to increase property taxes with a shift in funding teacher retirement costs or a sales tax increase.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said that’s a fair assessment of where the parties stand at the moment.
“Right now, this is a sinking ship and we are here to create different opportunities,” Pratt said.
She said the options they put forward Wednesday are still not on the table and they need to be on the table.
She said the proposals being discussed will hurt families, undermine communities, and are an attack on working families.
Legislative leaders and Malloy have largely tried to avoid tax increases over the past few years after two historic tax increases in 2011 and 2015.
Looney said he would like to increase income taxes on Connecticut’s wealthiest citizens, but he knows there’s not enough support and it’s unclear how successful the 2015 tax increase has been.
The top 100 taxpayers returned $200 million less in revenue to Connecticut last year, according to the Office of Fiscal Analysis.
Why does that matter?
The top 1 percent pay about 30 percent of the income tax revenue in Connecticut.
Tim Foley of SEIU State Council said that means maybe the income tax increases were not properly structured.
He said the total number of millionaires and billionaires is going up. He rejected the notion that millionaires are fleeing the state based on those tax increases.
“It’s a great ghost story,” Foley said.
He said 35 other states saw a drop in their revenue collection this year. He said the problem isn’t unique to Connecticut.
“When you look at Connecticut compared to its peers our state spending is not exorbitant compared to other states and what we take as progressive taxation from high income earners is certainly not as high as some of our neighboring states,” Foley said. “What that says to me is there is some wiggle room.”
The coalition estimated raising the income tax a half percent on households making more than $500,000 would bring in about $217.5 million per year.
He said the point of releasing the options is to tell lawmakers they need a “balanced approach,” and there’s no reason to protect a specific part of the population.
Legislative leaders are expected to meet again Monday, Aug. 28 to discuss their budget proposals.