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Legislature Fails To Appoint Tax & Pension Panels

November 30, 2018

HARTFORD — The Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth voluntarily revised its report this week, but the legislature has not yet appointed anyone to serve on two other groups tasked with looking at the commission’s recommendations.

The budget adjustment passed on May 9 created two panels to continue examining the work of the Fiscal Stability Commission. The first was supposed to look at its recommendations regarding the Teachers Retirement System, and the second was supposed to look at its tax proposals.

Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes reminded lawmakers earlier this week that they failed to appoint any members to those seven-member panels.

“I laughed about this chart,” Barnes said about the chart above detailing the number of commissions. “There are quite a few legislative commissions studying fiscal and pension issues.”

The two panels, which were never formed, were supposed to have their first meeting by July and give the two budget writing committees a report by Jan. 1, 2019.

But the appointments were never made.

Pat O’Neil, a spokesman for the House Republican caucus, said there was interest in keeping the commission’s structure intact and preserving their work because “no one had time to digest it.”

The Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth was created by the bipartisan budget of 2017, which wasn’t signed until Oct. 31 that year. The 14-member commission had less than three months to put together its recommendations. Earlier this week, the two co-chairman of the commission announced a number of revisions they had made to the document after they completed their work in March.

“I know we had an interest in keeping the vast amount of work they did in place,” O’Neil said Thursday.

Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the commission, said it was determined that the panel assignment to examine the Teachers Retirement System would be best handled by the Pension Sustainability Commission, which has been appointed and has been working for several months.

“While action was not taken to advance the concept of a study of the state tax structure, we believe there is a perfect opportunity to address this issue now — with the election of a new governor and a new legislature,” Schain said. “The Commission believes revised recommendations presented in our ‘Report 2.0’ will help get this conversation started.”

In the first report the commission proposed a $2.1 billion reduction in personal income taxes, repeal of the gift and estate taxes, and paying for it all with an increase in the sales tax rate, a new business payroll tax, and a broader sales tax. In the report it released Wednesday, it calls for a small reduction in business taxes, repeal of the gift and estate taxes, and a reduction in the top personal income tax rate from 6.99 percent to 6.7 percent.

It also calls for doubling the property tax credit for middle income earners and an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit to 30 percent of the federal one. That’s in addition to eliminating the Business Entity Tax, and expanding the sales tax base.

The new General Assembly and governor will be sworn in on Jan. 9, 2019.

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