The Bristol Press – CHRIS POWELL: What property tax relief? And gasoline overtakes TCI

Governor Lamont remarked last week that he was considering property tax relief, reportedly as part of his campaign for re-election next year. Of course, for decades the whole state thought about property tax relief and many politicians talked about it, so where is it?

For the trend of property taxes in Connecticut has long been and remains higher. At best, some cities manage to keep their property tax rates steady in the occasional budget year. Then they go up.

The governor’s idea of ​​property tax relief is just a state income tax property tax credit, a tax credit that has made occasional appearances over the years. years when governors wanted to strike a pose ahead of state elections, a kind of bribe for voters. But the property tax credit isn’t really relief at all, just a replacement of a small amount of local property tax with income from state taxes. The net total of taxes does not change, nor does a city’s property tax rate.

When the financial situation of the state government tightens, the property tax credit is reduced or eliminated.

Overall, this type of property tax relief was offset by state tax increases.

Some argue that this tax transfer is an improvement because the state government’s tax base is much broader than municipal tax bases and therefore the state can tax the wealthy globally. But for most people, the tax change is a washout, and its only real beneficiaries are government employees and dependents, who get most of the money.

The long-standing failure to secure property tax relief may seem odd, since every state budget contains appropriations for cities that are hailed as property tax relief. But most of that money is diverted to increasing compensation for unionized municipal government employees, compensation that typically consumes at least two-thirds of municipal budgets.

So there can be no property tax relief until municipalities get their labor costs under control, and there will be no such thing as long as state law imposes on municipalities binding arbitration of municipal employee union contracts.

Property tax relief would require repealing binding arbitration or at least allowing municipalities to elect arbitrators who set contract terms. This would require cities to hold referendums on municipal property tax increases and a state law imposing a cap on municipal property tax rates.

Above all, it would force the public to wrest control of the state and municipal government from the government employees unions, which control the majority political party in the state. That’s why no Democratic governor is likely to offer property tax relief.

So thinking about property tax relief, as the governor says, is about as effective as thinking about a ham sandwich when someone else has already eaten it.

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For many months, the governor and many Democratic state lawmakers have been eager to put Connecticut into what they call the Transportation Climate Initiative, or TCI, a regional arrangement to raise wholesale taxes on gasoline. in the name of raising funds for less polluting forms of transport. . Proponents of the arrangement said it would not raise gasoline prices in Connecticut more than 15 cents per gallon.

But now gas prices are skyrocketing – an increase of $1.34 per gallon or 65% over last year. The Biden administration has crippled the US energy industry and inflation is raging generally and eroding living standards. So Democrats seem to be losing their enthusiasm for rising gas prices.

Support for the TCI is fading and 11 Democratic US senators, including Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, last week urged the president to lower gasoline prices, possibly by releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Gas prices in particular and inflation in general are likely to have a big influence on next year’s national and legislative elections. So, with Democrats in charge in both Washington and Hartford, what political price are they willing to pay for their environmental posture against carbon-based fuels?

Probably not much, in which case they will show that they never really believed what they said about the supposed urgency of climate change. This emergency will prove less urgent than the next election.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Chronicle on Monday, November 15, 2021 7:45 PM. Update: Monday, November 15, 2021 7:47 p.m.

Penny D. Jackson