A tax write-off for Connecticut homeowners with crumbling foundations that was recently approved by the Internal Revenue Service may be in jeopardy under legislation now being debated by the U.S. Senate.

A Senate Republican proposal to overhaul federal tax policy would eliminate the tax deduction for property casualty losses except those stemming from federal declared disasters.

Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy have raised concerns about eliminating the deduction but as Democrats who oppose the overall bill, they have little chance to amend it. The bill remains under debate and Republican leaders are focused on making changes to insure that the Senate Republican majority can approve it without the need for any Democrat support.

“Just a week after the Trump administration agreed to provide help to homeowners in Connecticut, Senate Republicans are trying to screw it up. People living with crumbling foundations have been through so much already. They don’t deserve to be jerked around like this. This is another reason we’re fighting tooth and nail against this disaster of a bill,” Murphy said.

Blumenthal introduced an amendment to the tax bill that would strike the provision repealing the casualty loss deduction from the bill. Murphy has introduced a “Motion to Commit” to direct the Senate Finance Committee to remove the provision from the bill.

Homeowners learned last week that the Internal Revenue Service had agreed that taxpayers with foundations deteriorating because of the presence of an iron sulfide can deduct 75 percent of their unreimbursed repair costs from their federal taxes as a casualty loss.

Representative Joe Courtney spoke on the House floor last week to praise the IRS for its decision allowing for the tax credit — and praising the “outstanding journalism” of George Colli Jr., Carolyn Lumsden, and Eric Bedner who raised awareness to the problem.

Courtney said the reporting from the Connecticut media revealed that a quarry in north central Connecticut had supplied aggregate concrete for home foundations over the last 30 years that contained “pyrrhotite” — an iron sulfide mineral substance that oxidizes when exposed to moisture and creates cracks in concrete that ultimately compromise the foundations.

Courtney said the Treasury Department issued a ruling the day before Thanksgiving extending property casualty loss provisions to allow homeowners to take a deduction for their loss. His office began working on the issue 19 months ago with the help of Representative John Larson’s office.

“The decision the day before Thanksgiving by the Treasury Department gave great hope to these homeowners that, actually, the system can work, and that is probably the most powerful emotion that people took away from the decision that took place on Wednesday,” he said.

Larson Pushes Carbon ‘Pollution’ Tax

peter urban / ctnewsjunkie
When House Democrats were in the majority in 2008, Representative John Larson proposed a carbon tax as an alternative to a cap-and-trade plan to limit carbon emissions from industry. His aggressive plan drew but a handful of support. Now, nearly a decade later, he is back with a less ambitious tax — and a new sales pitch.

Rather than call it a “carbon tax,” Larson says his bill is a “pollution tax” that will generate revenues to put Americans back to work rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. He spoke this week at the Brookings Institute on the bill and what he describes as his “Augie & Ray’s” approach to legislating — a reference to the iconic hotdog drive in on Main Street in East Hartford.

Patrons of Augie & Ray’s aren’t much different than members of Congress. They aren’t going to support an idea unless they can “get their arms around it.”  When it comes to a carbon tax, Larson said he explains that it is similar to a “sin tax” — like those imposed on cigarettes and liquor — to discourage unhealthy behavior. In this case, discouraging pollution that is bad for your lungs.

Larson has introduced the “America Wins Act” to impose a tax on carbon emissions that would generate an estimated $1.8 trillion in revenue for a national fund to rebuild airports, mass transit, highways, bridges, and other infrastructure in need of repairs and modernization.

“America can’t be great again unless we improve our failing infrastructure system and we get people back to work,” he said.

Courtney and DeLauro in Food Fight

peter urban / ctnewsjunkie
peter urban / ctnewsjunkie
A Trump administration decision to delay Obama-era healthy school meal requirements drew sharply contrasting opinions from Connecticut Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Joe Courtney.

DeLauro panned the delay while Courtney praised it.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released an interim final rule Wednesday allowing schools to serve flavored one-percent milk — including chocolate milk — and also get a state exemption to serve grains that are not whole-grain rich through the 2018-19 school year. Schools under the rule also get out of having to further reduce sodium levels in breakfasts and lunches next year.

“Schools want to offer food that students actually want to eat. It doesn’t do any good to serve nutritious meals if they wind up in the trash can,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.

DeLauro complained that the decision would hinder progress in adopting nutrition standards to address childhood obesity and malnutrition.

“Allowing less healthy food in schools puts us on a path toward weakening the school breakfast and lunch programs. The USDA should immediately reverse this decision and recommit to protecting our children’s health and well-being,” she said.

Courtney said the decision would give schools the option to serve low-fat, 1-percent flavored milk as a way to encourage children to drink more milk. He notes that despite growing public school enrollment, schools served 213 million less half-pints of milk between 2014 and 2016.

“Milk is an important source of valuable nutrients for our nation’s children, and I thank Secretary Purdue for finalizing the School Meals Rule to reflect our efforts to provide schools with the option to offer low-fat flavored milk,” he said.

Courtney has introduced legislation with Pennsylvania Rep. Glenn Thompson that would similarly allow schools to serve flavored and unflavored varieties of 1-percent milk.

House Approves Brownfields Cleanup Bill

Representative Elizabeth Esty praised House approval this week of legislation to reauthorize the federal brownfields remediation program, saying it included many of her ideas to better enable communities to renew blighted properties.

“Central and northwestern Connecticut [have] a long and proud industrial history, but that history has left an unwelcome legacy of brownfield sites throughout our region — from Meriden to Waterbury up to Plymouth and Torrington,” she said. “Growing our economy and protecting our environment are not mutually-exclusive goals.”

The legislation was approved 409-8, and would provide up to $200 million a year to clean up brownfield sites — contaminated land once used for industrial or commercial purposes. Originally authorized in 2002, the EPA’s Brownfield Program empowers states, communities, and stakeholders to assess, clean up, and redevelop these sites. The program was allowed to expire in 2006, though it has continued to receive funding.

Connecticut’s Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) identified 1,376 pages of potential brownfields sites across the state.

In March, Esty and New York Representative John Katko introduced legislation to spur economic development through brownfields assessment and remediation. The two lawmakers serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

THE PEOPLE’S SYMPOSIUM, a panel discussion about issues affecting Connecticut’s working families with current candidates and candidates considering a run for the 2018 gubernatorial election. Confirmed panelists: Dita Bhargava, Dan Drew, Joe Ganim, Jonathan Harris, and Chris Mattei. Saturday, Dec. 2, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Fair Haven Middle School, 164 Grand Ave., New Haven More info and RSVP, Seating Is Limited

TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS FOR NONPROFIT SUCCESS seminar. Tuesday, Dec. 5, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Trust Worker’s Compensation, 47 Barnes Industrial Road S, Wallingford. More info and RSVP

25TH ANNUAL CATHERINE RORABACK AWARDS DINNER, NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut honors a group of awardees who have made a substantial contribution to reproductive rights here in Connecticut, including Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, comedian, writer, and UConn professor Gina Barreca, and the staff and physicians of the Hartford GYN Center. Tuesday, Dec. 5, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. More info and RSVP

REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES FOR GOVERNOR Debate sponsored by state Sen. Art Linares and moderated by Fox61’s Jenn Bernstein and the Courant’s Chris Keating on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 6 p.m. at the Windsor High School, 50 Sage Park Road, Windsor. More info and RSVP


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