Wilton Letter: Specter Of County Government Returns To Haunt Connecticut

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To the editor:

Most people in Connecticut think their property taxes are too high. So just imagine how you would feel if a portion of your local property taxes were diverted to other towns, and then, at the same time, you had to pay even higher local taxes to maintain your town’s or city’s services. Unfortunately, this could happen if a bill now under consideration in the General Assembly passes during this legislative session.

SB 1, An Act Concerning Tax Fairness and Economic Development, has been raised by the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee. If it becomes law, it would create a new regional layer of taxing authority and bureaucracy in Connecticut. Connecticut residents expect to pay taxes to their state and federal governments and to see them used to fund activities, services and structures outside of their hometowns. Local property taxes, however, are different. While local property taxes are burdensome for many, residents have at least had the assurance that they would be used to pay for services in their own towns or cities. This bill, however, would create a new level of government that would absorb a portion of these local taxes and then allocate the funds to other cities or towns.

Inevitably, certain municipalities would gain revenues through the process outlined in the bill, and others would lose. Those that lose revenues would likely face important shortfalls in their local budgets. To continue to provide essential services to their residents and local businesses, they would be required to raise local taxes, in many cases quite considerably. The result: Residents would pay more in order to contribute to the new layer of regional government, while also paying more just to maintain essential services in their own municipalities. It’s hard to see how this could be sustainable over time.

I believe that this regional tax base proposal will create severe financial stress for individuals, businesses and municipalities that are already struggling under one of the country’s heaviest combined tax burdens, and I have submitted testimony urging the Committee not to approve it. If this proposal in SB 1 does move forward as written, however, I hope that all of the proponents will characterize it accurately and with all possible transparency to ensure that members of the public and their elected officials fully understand it for what it is. Creating a new layer of regional government that collects and reallocates tax revenues is not a step that should be taken without widespread public support.

Rep. Gail Lavielle

A Republican, Lavielle represents parts of Wilton, Norwalk and Westport 

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