Address Connecticut’s spending problem, not the automobile tax law

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Many of you may believe that your property taxes are too high — a fairly common notion in this state, considering Connecticut statistically places the highest burden upon such taxes.

We expect tax dollars to our state and federal government to be used to fund services, infrastructures and organizations outside of our hometowns. But local property taxes are different. Through them, we at least have the assurance that the schools, town halls and parks and recreation departments of our own neighborhoods will directly benefit.

Unfortunately, that could all change if a bill now under consideration in the General Assembly passes this session.

S.B. 1, An Act Concerning Tax Fairness and Economic Development is a Senate Democrat proposal to create a new level of government that would absorb a portion of local taxes to be allocated to other cities or towns. In other words, some of the car and property taxes you pay to your town will be yielded to a regional bureaucracy, which will in turn redistribute that money to other municipalities, to be used at their disposal.

This bill is taking money away from the towns that have it, and giving it to the towns that need it based on their population numbers and property values. While this is an admirable idea, it’s being approached in an unfair way. Though we will continue to pay car taxes to our town, the amount will be determined by a state-wide mill rate, and we will never see all of that money.

Each year, you pay 70 percent of your vehicle’s retail market value in taxes. Why? Because your car tax bill is based on your vehicle’s assessment. Because this new legislation (S.B. 1) comes with an across-the-board $3,000 reduction in everyone’s tax assessment, if you own a 2001 Honda Civic with a market value of $4,500, your bill will likely decrease. In fact, it’s possible you wouldn’t have to pay anything at all.

However, if you own a 2013 Honda Accord (75,000 miles), the market value is roughly $18,000. If you live in Brookfield, your current tax rate is 25.7 mills. That means that you will be paying $324 for your car taxes in FY 2015. But, under this proposal – and choosing a middle-ground statewide rate of 50 mills – your estimated bill would be $480 – a $156 increase!

I believe that this regional tax base proposal will create further financial stress for individuals, businesses, and municipalities that are already struggling under one of the country’s heaviest tax burdens. It will further discourage people from moving to, or staying in, the state of Connecticut.

Instead of bolstering taxes on these small towns and their hard-working, blue-collar residents, we should be reevaluating the government’s spending problem, which has been ignored for years.

Our district in particular is routinely underfunded by the state, and it would likely be the same under this formula. In addition, it worries me that this money could eventually go directly into the state’s General Fund, similar to what has been proposed with the funds received through the Community Involvement Act.

I hope we can work to make this proposal a better piece of legislation.

State Rep. Stephen Harding is a Republican from the 107th General Assembly District covering Brookfield as well as parts of Bethel and Danbury.  

What do you think?

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