Welcome to The Hartford Portfolio, Yankee Institute’s update on what’s happening at the State Capitol during the legislative session.
Here’s some of what we saw in Hartford this week:
CT’s one-bedroom “mansions” Governor Lamont has (generally) opposed creating or increasing taxes, saying it “did not solve the problem” when the last four governors had. But that didn’t stop the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee from hearing testimony on a statewide property tax—a so-called “mansion tax”—that would add 2 mills to the property tax rate on residences valued at over $1.2 million (including apartment buildings). The overlap between advocates and lawmakers supporting this tax and those complaining about rising rents and affordable housing (as they did at Tuesday’s seven-hour Housing Committee meeting) may be the single greatest paradox in state government.
The committee also heard from advocates about a proposal that would tax some capital gains at their highest-ever rate. (You can read Yankee Institute’s memo of opposition here).
Lawmakers heard testimony on other tax issues, including a push to permanently increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Governor Lamont’s plan to increase the property tax credit, and the Senate GOP’s call to temporarily trim the state sales tax and meal tax rates to 5.99 percent.
The check’s in the mail? The Senate debated the nomination of Danté Bartolomeo, who has been acting Labor Commissioner since last summer. Senators took issue with a $155 million payment that was supposed to have been made to help cover upwards of $1 billion borrowed by the state’s unemployment insurance fund during the 2020 lockdown. The state had until February 28 to avoid incurring interest, and Senator Cathy Osten said the department had ignored about a dozen inquiries on the subject since last fall. The Senate ultimately confirmed Bartolomeo by a vote of 26-6. Her nomination next goes to the House, which meanwhile confirmed new Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker (117-32) and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani, M.D. (96-53).
Sue The Boss, Pay The Union The Labor & Public Employees Committee introduced legislation that would allow individuals to direct state agencies to investigate and fine employers over employment law violations and then collect 20 percent of the penalty. But an even bigger cut (25 percent) would flow into a slush fund from which labor unions and nonprofits would get paid to “educate” workers. You can read more here.
The committee heard from Yankee Institute’s Director of Policy & Research Ken Girardin, who told members that a “technical change” requested by the Labor Department with respect to an “obsolete” and “redundant” law would actually gut a decades-old safeguard against financial crimes by union executives.
“Health” versus “Integrity” The General Administration and Elections Committee heard testimony on extending the state’s relaxed absentee voting rules, originally enacted due to COVID-19, through the 2022 general election. Witnesses were evenly divided: proponents argued they should not be forced to choose between their health and their right to vote, while opponents raised concerns about transparency and the potential for fraud.