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Fiscal panel report renews call for legislature to tackle tax reform

November 29, 2018

Hartford — Formed by the state legislature in 2017 and officially disbanded earlier this year, the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth — now a collection of private citizens — resurfaced Wednesday, releasing an updated version of its plan for restoring Connecticut’s “competitive edge.”

Like the initial report, “Report 2.0” focuses on stabilizing state government spending, stimulating economic growth and creating jobs.

Will Democratic Gov.-elect Ned Lamont and the legislature’s Democratic-led chambers take heed?

“This time, I think the timing is good,” Robert Patricelli, the retired health care executive who co-chaired the commission, said during a news briefing at the Legislative Office Building. “We’ve got a new governor, a new legislature and a full (legislative) session coming up.”

Patricelli, who was joined by former Webster Bank CEO Jim Smith, the other co-chairman, said they met earlier in the day with legislative leaders, including House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin; House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby; and Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven. Patricelli said the talks were confidential.

“We have not been swayed by the political calculus,” Smith said. 

The shortness of the last legislative session and the then-impending elections were blamed for the commission’s first report failing to gain much traction after its March release. The report proposed a massive cut in the state’s personal income tax and a repeal of the gift and estate taxes, rollbacks that were to be offset by a hike in the sales tax and a new business payroll tax.

The new report — more targeted than the first — again advocates turning to consultants for help in reducing the state budget deficit by at least 700 million to 140 million, the report says.

The commission also would fund transportation improvements through public-private partnerships and project-specific highway tolling aimed at reducing traffic congestion. It calls for funding 4,000 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) scholarships at four-year colleges and proposes redistributing municipal aid to benefit the towns and cities that are most in need.

Almost in passing, the commission urges the legislature to consider raising the minimum wage over time to $15 an hour.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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