Leaders disagree on property tax warning
An analysis by governor-hopeful Ned Lamont that showed skyrocketing property taxes in face of his rival’s proposal to eliminate the state income tax has some bracing for financial devastation and others questioning Lamont’s reasoning.
Bob Stefanowski, the Republican candidate for governor, lambasted the town-by-town property tax calculation that showed property taxes could increase by as much as 104 percent. Stefanowski called the analysis “fake math” and reiterated that his plan, endorsed by Reaganomics guru Arthur Laffer, would phase out the income tax over eight years, not eliminate it overnight.
“Our tax plan includes revenue triggers that will be set in accordance with the budget,” said Stefanowski spokesman Kendall Marr. “Using this method, we can cut taxes as we can afford it.”
Economic growth would offset the loss of tax revenue, his campaign said.
“The Stefanowski plan to cut taxes will generate explosive growth and will increase revenues from sales and use tax collections, in addition to ending the downward spiral of people and jobs leaving the state — all which will have a positive impact in future revenues,” Marr said. “Growth is the key to success.”
Stefanowski, a Republican, has not said he would cut state aid to cities and towns in order to make up for his proposed tax cuts — he hasn’t said at all what would be on the chopping block — but revenue from the income tax makes up roughly half of the state’s $20 billion budget.
Lamont, a Democrat, made the leap that if revenues aren’t coming from state taxes, there will have to be cuts somewhere and state municipal aid would be a likely target. In Lamont’s assessment, released Wednesday, towns would raise property taxes to make up for lost state aid.
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who challenged Lamont for the Democratic nomination, said cutting municipal aid would no doubt result in higher property taxes, which would devastate his already fragile city.
“This is not something people shouldn’t even be playing around with when the need is even greater than what is being met right now,” Ganim said. “I don’t hear Stefanowski saying he is going to protect property taxes, protect the education cost sharing formula. He’s just talking about slashing and burning.”
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who lost his bid for governor to Stefanowski and also campaigned on a promise to eliminate the state income tax, scoffed at Lamont’s estimations.
“I said all along that you can’t eliminate the income tax without reorganizing state government,” Boughton said. “This is the opportunity to redesign state government and you won’t need $9 billion to redesign the state. It’s good politics but not accurate ... I think you have to free up local leaders, mayors and first selectmen to make those decisions and stop passing unfunded mandates. It’s not a binary choice, which is what Ned’s making it.”
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