The Capitol Beat: September 25, 2014

Quote of the Week:

Connecticut is excessively reliant on the property tax, which is stunningly unequal across the state….A comprehensive reframing of revenue sources, including vastly simplifying, broadening, and lowering the sales tax, and learning from best practice in other states would both make the tax system more transparent, easily to administer for both the private and public sectors, and, in the long run, play a meaningful if modest role in improving the state’s business environment.

–UConn economics professor Fred Carstensen in op-ed piece in the CT News Junkie blog.

Ahead to the Past: Panel Named to Study Ins and Outs of Connecticut’s Revenue System

Leaders of the Legislature’s revenue-raising committee and the Governor’s office Tuesday unveiled their appointments to a Tax Study panel created by Public Act 14-217 last session. The 15 regular appointees are experts in the fields of tax policy, tax law, accounting, economics, and business finance. They have been charged with evaluating options for modernizing the state’s tax policy, structure and administration. In accordance with provisions of the Public Act, numerous ex-officio and alternates were also named to the study group.

The panel will have a little over a year –until Jan. 1, 2016 — to make recommendations and report back to the Legislature. The first meeting of the group will be on Monday, Sept. 29 at 3 pm in Room 2E of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

We are not plowing new ground here. There have been multiple tax studies undertaken over the years, but the slow economic revival and the specter of a projected $2 billion deficit over the next biennium, may give more urgency to the exercise this time around.

In developing options, the panel must consider the impact of the state’s tax structure and the extent to which tax policy affects business and consumer decision making.

Plans are for the creation of four subcommittees, which will focus on the following areas:

• Personal income taxes, including estate and gift taxes

• Business taxes, including excise taxes

• Consumer taxes

• Property taxes

The Public Act requires the panel to also evaluate the feasibility of the following options:

• Creating a tiered property tax payment system that includes any property owned by the (a) state; (b) an institution, facility, or hospital for which the state made a payment in lieu of taxes to the host municipality; or (c) nonprofit entity;

• Assessing a “community benefit fee” on any tax-exempt property;

• Taxing property owned by an institution, facility, or hospital for which the state made a payment in lieu of taxes; and

• Requiring institutions, facilities, or hospitals to report the value of their real and personal property.

Following is the list of panel members:

  • Bill Breetz, Connecticut Urban League Initiative, Inc.
  • Al Casella, partner, Murtha Cullina
  • Alan Clavette, CPA, Clavette & Company, LLC
  • Bill Dyson, former O’Neill Endowed Chair, Central Connecticut State University
  • John Elsesser, town manager, Town of Coventry
  • Don Marchand, partner, Ivy, Barnum, & O’Mara
  • Bill Nickerson, CEO, Hoffman Management
  • Lou Schatz, partner, Shipman & Goodwin
  • John Soto, president-owner, Space-Craft Manufacturing
  • Robert Testo, principal, R.J. Testo & Associates
  • Marian Galbraith, mayor, City of Groton
  • Tiana Gianopoulos, senior counsel, Day Pitney
  • Howard K. Hill, founder, Howard K. Hill Funeral Services
  • Yolanda Kodrzycki, vice president and director, New England Public Policy Center
  • Anika Singh Lemar, clinical associate professor, Yale Law School


  • Melinda Agsten, partner, Wiggin & Dana
  • David Nee, board member, Connecticut Voices for Children

Ex-officio members

  • Kevin Sullivan, commissioner, Department of Revenue Services
  • Ben Barnes, secretary, Office of Policy and Management
  • Sen. Don Williams, president pro tem, Senate
  • Rep. J. Brendan Sharkey, speaker of the House
  • Sen. John Fonfara, co-chair, Finance Committee
  • Rep. Patricia Widlitz, co-chair Finance Committee
  • Sen. Scott Frantz, ranking member, Finance Committee
  • Rep. Sean Williams, ranking member, Finance Committee

In addition to taking a close look at individual and businesses taxes, credits and exemptions, the group will be grappling with the issues of whether and how to impose property taxes on nonprofit colleges and hospitals, and how the state sales tax could possibly be reduced and broadened to capture currently exempt items.

Foley Tries New Take on Car Tax Cut in His Urban Plan Proposal

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley Wednesday trotted out a variation on an old theme in his plan to help CT’s urban areas: cutting and capping the personal property tax on automobiles at 30 mills and providing $30 million to towns and cities to help offset lost revenue. Both Governor Malloy and his predecessor, M. Jodi Rell, tried mightily but unsuccessfully to pass iterations of the car tax cut. The Legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis has put lost revenues from such proposals in the hundreds of millions. The Foley Plan also call for capping small business property taxes at 30 mills.

Surrounded by Republican Mayors at the news conference in New Britain, Foley also defended his education plan, which he calls a “marketplace approach” but what some critics have dubbed a “tough love” approach. Foley said he supports in-district school choice and “money follows the child” to begin reconstituting underperforming schools.

“They should start trying to be better schools right away,” Foley said. Some Democrats have criticized his plan as simplistic and lean on details.

Upcoming Political Debates/Discussions

SOUTHERN CT STATE UNIVERSITY will host the political summit on Monday, Oct. 6 from noon to 2 p.m. and will feature a panel discussion moderated by CT News Junkie’s Christine Stuart. Free and open to the public.


ESTY & GREENBERG (5th Congressional District) will debate on Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Portuguese Cultural Center, 65 Sand Pit Road, Danbury.

HIMES & DEBICELLA (4th Congressional District) will participate on three debates on October 19 in Wilton, October 20 in Stamford and on October 28 in Norwalk.

JOE COURTNEY & HOPKINS-CAVANAGH (2nd Congressional District) on Oct. 20 at Eastern Connecticut State University hosted by the Norwich Bulletin and moderated by Ray Hackett.


WFSB will host a gubernatorial debate moderated by Dennis House on Tuesday, September 30 at 7 p.m. at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford.

HARTFORD COURANT, FOX CT & UConn will host a live televised debate on Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. at UConn’s Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs.

CT BROADCASTERS ASSOCIATION will host a debate on Thursday, Oct. 9 at 4 p.m. at the Hartford Hilton, 315 Trumbull Street, Hartford.

THE DAY, CPTV & WNPR will host a debate on Thursday, October 16 at 7 p.m. at the Garde Arts Center, 325 State Street, New London.

WNPR‘s John Dankosky will host a debate on Wednesday, Oct. 22, at 6:30 p.m. with light refreshments at 6 p.m. at the Career High School, 140 Legion Avenue, New Haven.

NBC CONNECTICUT will host a debate on Thursday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. at their studio in West Hartford.

WTNH 8 will host the final debate on Sunday, Nov. 2 at 8 a.m. at their studio in New Haven.

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