Last month, Sacred Heart University asked voters: “What is the most important issue to you in deciding your vote for governor in November?”
“High overall tax burden” accounted for 24.7 percent of the response from 502 voters. Another 22.3 percent cited the “state budget crisis” and 12.7 percent said “high overall cost of living.”
Republican Bob Stefanowski continues to campaign on the idea that the personal income tax is to blame for Connecticut’s economic performance over the past two decades.
In an editorial in the Washington Examiner, Stefanowski writes that “States without income taxes — even excluding the two sparsely populated oil-producing states of Alaska and North Dakota — are in far better shape fiscally than ours. Connecticut cannot balance its budget on the backs of the unemployed, or those who are forced to pack up and leave our state.”
He goes onto say that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who raised taxes in 2011 and again in 2015, “has demonstrated for us that higher taxes result in slower growth, more poverty, business exodus, and fiscal crisis. Connecticut has followed these policies since its income tax was adopted in 1991. It’s time to play the film backwards.”
What Stefanowski doesn’t say is how he plans to eliminate $9.5 billion to $9.7 billion of annual revenue?
That’s allowed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ned Lamont to fill in the blanks.
Lamont said eliminating what amounts to half of the state budget would increase the property tax because it would force the state to cut aid to cities and towns.
“State aid represents at least 27 percent of local government revenue — and that’s before the state’s heavy obligations for teacher pensions are taken into account. It represents 40 percent of our education budget,” Lamont says in an editorial published on Medium.
“If our towns had to stand on their own, then the state’s largest cities, already cash-strapped, would be hit the hardest. In New Haven, property taxes would increase by 116 percent and the median extra tax bill would be $6,669. In the state’s largest city, Bridgeport, taxpayers would see their property taxes increase by 92 percent and would have to pay $5,864 more each year. Small towns and suburbs would get hit, too. In Coventry, property taxes would go up by 57 percent, an extra $3,242 per year. And in Derby, the property tax hike would be 68 percent — a hit of $3,764,” Lamont wrote.
Stefanowski doesn’t have any plans to detail exactly how he plans to implement the elimination of the income tax before the November election. The plan on his website by Reagan economist Art Laffer includes revenue triggers for elimination of the corporate income tax, but as far as balancing the budget it simply says “adjust spending lo revenue.”
Last week at the Crocodile Club, Stefanowski was asked whether he planned to explain how he was going to implement his plan.
“I don’t think the argument is about what people’s plan is,” Stefanwoski said. “This is a stark contrast. You’ve got Ned Lamont on tape saying he’s going to raise taxes and I’m gonna try like heck to get rid of the income tax, but I guarantee it’s going to go down.”
Where will you cut spending to account for a reduction in revenues?
“There’s a lot of things we need to look at. We need to relook at the SEBAC agreement. There’s a lot of discretionary spending that happens in this state that we could cut back,” Stefanowski said. “It’s over eight years, we’ve got revenue triggers every two years, we’ll do it gradually, but we’ve gotta promise to reduce the size of government.”
Stefanowski rather talk about how he believes Lamont will raise taxes.
Republicans have latched onto a statement Lamont made to an FM radio host during the primary when asked a “yes or no” question about taxes.
Lamont said “yes” he would raise taxes.
During Wednesday’s first debate, in which Stefanowski didn’t participate, Lamont said he was thinking about his “truck-only” toll proposal when he answered the question.
Lamont said he would try to hold the line on increases in the personal income tax.
“Listen, I’m not looking to raise anybody’s rates right now,” Lamont said Wednesday.
As far as equalizing the motor vehicle tax, which is what Lamont was explaining at a Drinking Liberally event in Windsor, Lamont has backed off the proposal.
Stefanowski’s campaign is trying to make grainy video from a tracker of Lamont talking about it look as if he’s proposing a new tax.
Marc Bradley, Lamont’s campaign manager, said the Stefanowski campaign is taking the comment “out of context” because a statewide motor vehicle tax would actually lower taxes for many residents.
“Ned knows families feel squeezed because of bad decisions by Republicans and Democrats in Hartford,” Bradley said. “While Bob is making la-la-land proposals that would cause massive increases in home and car taxes across the state, Ned has a proposal to cut property taxes, including those on cars, which are the biggest tax burden on middle class families.”
Lawmakers have battled with municipalities for years trying to figure out how to equalize the motor vehicle tax while giving municipalities enough money to help them maintain their current level of service. Since the property tax is the only tax municipalities control there’s little desire to give it up.
Municipalities don’t trust the state to collect it then redistribute it.
At the same time, many feel it’s unfair taxes on a Honda Accord are more in Hartford than they are in Greenwich on the same vehicle, however, there’s little political will to change the current system.
Lamont is pitching a property tax credit as an off-set to the personal income tax.
Oz Griebel, who is also running for governor without support from any political party, said Connecticut voters are too smart to fall for either proposal.
Griebel said giving a property tax credit does nothing to reduce the mill rate in the towns and eliminating the income tax is not realistic.