In an email to constituents a few days ago, State Rep. Steve Stafstrom shares his take on a House Democrats proposed spending package … “a slight uptick in the sales tax is much more palatable than shortchanging our city and schools the funding they need to operate, or risk the city attempting to make up for the loss of aid through increasing property taxes.”
More from Stafstrom:
Yesterday, House Democrats presented a new spending package in the hopes of ending the current budget stalemate and closing our deficit. This proposal prioritizes funding critical services, including education, invests in our workforce development programs to spur our economy, and contains important structural changes to the way state and local governments operate.
This proposal incorporates ideas from House and Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, the governor, as well as feedback I have received from all of you.
As we work to close a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, this plan focuses on protecting state funding for municipalities like Bridgeport so as not to further burden local property taxpayers or place added strain on our already cash-strapped education system. In these difficult times, fighting for Bridgeport’s fair share of state funding remains my top priority and one of the critical issues I so frequently hear about from an overwhelming number of my constituents.
In order to keep funding our cities and towns, this budget includes a proposal to increase the sales tax by .5 percent. It also provides towns with additional revenue options and the ability to raise certain local fees. Although raising revenue is always a last resort, it is necessary that we have this debate.
To me, a slight uptick in the sales tax is much more palatable than shortchanging our city and schools the funding they need to operate, or risk the city attempting to make up for the loss of aid through increasing property taxes.
Other key provisions of this proposal include:
— A cap on bonding to reduce long-term debt
— Oversight of finances and economic development for towns that are in fiscal distress
— Regionalizing services and facilitating regionalism through changes to collective bargaining statutes
— Allowing municipalities to create “Urban development districts,” including a 0 percent corporate tax rate incentive for new and expanding businesses
— Developing and capitalizing on a new municipal economic development agency to support our urban areas
— A dedicated revenue stream for tourism funding
— Funding technical high schools, workforce development and a manufacturing pipeline
— Creating a new “Transportation Authority” to assess the economic impact, coordinate, and expedite transportation projects
— Supporting firefighters who have job-related cancers and taking care of police officers who suffer from PTSD
— Requiring votes on state employee union contracts
— Consolidation of state agencies and municipalities offices to create “one-stop” government centers in 2019
— Modifying the Citizens Election Program to require more on the part of candidates
In the area of taxes, there are no new taxes on hospitals (something many of you have reached out to oppose), a reduction of tax expenditures and credits by $36 million in 2019, phasing out of state income taxes on Social Security in 2020, tax incentives for graduates to stay in Connecticut in 2020 and a lifetime cap on gift and estate taxes in 2020.
The updated budget has been presented to all four legislative caucuses and the governor as a basis for further negotiations, hopefully leading to a House vote during the week of Sept. 11.
This is by no means an easy budget and it remains a work in progress. But hopefully this proposal provides a framework for a responsible, balanced budget and highlights for you some of the major priorities I would like to see in a final budget.
As always, please feel free to reach me with any questions, comments, or additional concerns you may have about the budget at Steve.Stafstrom@cga.ct.gov or 860-240-1371.