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Stafstrom: Sales Tax Increase Better Than Raising Property Taxes

August 26th, 2017 · 6 Comments · City Budget, News and Events, State Politics

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.

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Ron Mackey

    I found this interesting and troubling without knowing the details of this proposal, “Regionalizing services and facilitating regionalism through changes to collective bargaining statutes
    Allowing municipalities to create “Urban development districts.” First is it legal and what about if there is disparate impact in hiring?

  • John Marshall Lee

    Dear Steve, “Oversight of finances and economic development for towns that are in fiscal distress” from your comments. Does Bridgeport qualify as a town in fiscal distress? What was in the drafting of this so far that might constitute “oversight” activities? When it refers to economic development activities does it mean that you would have a well communicated expectation of the what, how and when fiscal portions that benefit a city before signing off on a project? Would the State have any powers to modify City behavior, or only responsibilities? Time will tell.

  • Tom White

    Predictable Democrat party agenda. Tax. Spend.

    Vote on union contracts? When? In four years after the delayed pay increases and various benefits kick in?
    More Agencies?

    More options for municipalities to levy more taxes? Sure, that will work.

    More regionalization and workforce development? These always sound good but there is no solid evidence of a benefit.

    Where are the specific cost-cutting measures such as lay-offs? Oh, I forgot, the Governor with Democrat legislature approval killed that, preserving their insidious relationship with State employee unions>

  • Donald Day

    Predictable Democrat party agenda.Tax.Spend.
    Tom White it’s killing this Black, life long Democrat as well and I’m sick of it as well.

    This philosophy isn’t my idea of being financially responsible and you can’t continue to tax the residents the hell out of Connecticut. Connecticut has the third highest state and local tax burden in the country and the second highest property tax.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Rep Steve Stafstrom,
    Thanks for providing Only In Bridgeport readers with some information from the legislature. However, a defect in “municipal government representation” is its “one way” nature, rather than a question/answer or statement/response form. So communication erodes.

    There are questions above in at least three of the four posts. Why not try an answer to one or more of them to provide information, to show that you care to open communication? Like chicken soup, it could not hurt, could it? Might show that open communication is something you work for? Time will tell.

  • Jeff Kohut

    Pretty good agenda Steve. But it takes proactive, aggressive leadership on the tax-base/jobs development side of things to assure that Connecticut’s revenue needs can be met — from the municipal to the state level… E.g., while Dan Malloy was doing God knows what during these past, long, seven years, the governor of Florida was actively seeking out and recruiting businesses to locate to his state. And at the local level, I recall from some time spent in prosperous, beautiful, Washington State, how the mayor of Everett — home to the mammoth Boeing manufacturing center — was doing double-duty drumming up business for his aerospace factories in Everett, with his efforts centered on Boeing… How many local polls do that in Connecticut… State delegation members could certainly make that part of their efforts on behalf of cities — especially if they want to move up the political food chain at some point…

    As far as “regionalism” goes — we already have that — you know, the parasitic relationship between the suburbs and cities, with the cities providing the infrastructure and services for the ‘burbs at a highly discounted rate… The kind of regionalism that is needed in Connecticut is the regionalism provided by county government in the rest of the US… (Only basket-cases Rhode Island and Connecticut don’t have county government…)

    So, really mostly the same-old, same-old in Hartford — except less money to play with…

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