In the heat of a Democratic primary this summer Gov. -elect Ned Lamont said he wanted to fully fund the Education Cost Sharing formula and fully fund PILOT, which is the money cities and towns receive for non-taxable property.
“I would fully fund PILOT and I would fully fund ECS,” Lamont told a group of about 100 people at the Hartford Public Library on July 19.
PILOT, or payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, is the amount of money the state gives to municipalities as compensation for the state property, colleges, or hospitals that a municipality is unable to tax. ECS is the education cost sharing grant the state provides to cities and towns to help pay for education. Both the ECS formula and PILOT have been underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars.
State officials estimate it would cost an additional $950 million a year to fully fund those two formulas.
“You’re going to want a governor who is a champion for all of our cities and all of our people. We’re a small state,” Lamont said in July.
Asked about how he planned to pay for the increase in spending in order to fully fund those two programs, Lamont said he would “streamline the delivery of services” and “think about how they can extend the sales tax to the online Internet economy.”
Capturing sales taxes from Internet companies that don’t have a presence in Connecticut could add about $200 million in revenue, according to the state’s previous estimates. It’s unclear how much “streamlining the delivery of services” would save the state, or how Lamont plans to go to a “fee for service” model of healthcare.
Lamont said he would be proposing those changes over time, not immediately, and dismissed the notion that he wouldn’t be able to find the savings to account for the proposal.
On Tuesday he met with the cities of some of Connecticut’s biggest cities and reiterated his support for education.
Lamont’s other campaign promise included tolls for out-of-state tractor trailer trucks.
Lamont estimated the state could collect as much as $100 million from electronic truck-only tolls on only out-of-state trucks.
Joseph Sculley, president of Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, has said out-of-state trucks already contribute $30 million annually to the state.
There’s also constitutional questions.
Trucking associations and carriers sued Rhode Island in July claiming its truck-only tolls were unconstitutional.
The lawsuit is still pending.
Lamont said the decision in that lawsuit will help guide his proposal, which will require legislative approval.
The Connecticut legislature, pending a few recounts, ushered in a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate. However, that doesn’t mean tolls for all vehicles will be an easy sell.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said he supports Lamont’s proposal to toll out-of-state trucks and a “broader toll.”
However, there are more moderate Democrats who come from districts where the idea of tolling is opposed.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said the real question is where does Connecticut come up with the money to fund our failing infrastructure and compete.
Aresimowicz a supporter of tolls said he might have to adjust his position because he doesn’t know his new caucus yet.
Property Tax Credit
Lamont said he wants to increase the property tax for middle class homeowners to $300. The credit is currently $200 for individuals over the age of 65 or families with dependents. Individuals without kids who own a home currently don’t qualify for the credit.
Under Lamont’s proposal, individuals with incomes up to $138,500 and married couples earning up to $160,500 would be able to qualify for the credit, which would increase the revenue loss to the state by $165 million a year.
The revenue loss to the state would increase to $400 million in the third and fourth year of the proposal but it would give some taxpayers who pay more than 6.5 percent of their income taxes in property taxes up to a $1,200 tax credit.
For every dollar of property tax relief that goes out the door the state needs to replace it by spending less or taxing more in another area.
So the question becomes what is Lamont going to cut? Or what other taxes will he implement?
It’s a question he will have to answer soon.
“What did I run on? What did I win on? I’m here to represent all of Connecticut,” Lamont said.
He said he would reach out to Republicans too, even though the Democratic Party is in the majority.
“I’m the person who is coming in to make the changes we need to get the state working again,” Lamont said last week in announcing his transition team.
On Thursday, Lamont will be in Colorado Springs for his first National Governors Association meeting while a member of his transition team will accept a copy of the transition budget from outgoing Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration.
Malloy will also be in Colorado Springs for the meeting with Lamont.