Let’s Add Some Salt to That Wound
As Income Tax Day — or as the government calls it Christmas — approaches a new study reveals that in 2022, Connecticut had the third highest effective property tax in the nation for single-family homes.
Real estate analyst ATTOM’s annual report shows Connecticut had a total effective tax rate — taxes as a percentage of home value — of 1.57 percent, trailing only Illinois (1.78 percent) and New Jersey (1.79 percent). Hawaii (.30 percent), Arizona (.39 percent) and Alabama (3.7 percent) have the lowest effective rates.
The report went on to state that the Northeast region had “seven of the ten highest average property taxes in the country.” New Jersey leads the pack with an average single-family home property tax of $9,527 — 10 times higher than the average of the lowest state, West Virginia, at $928. Connecticut found itself as second highest in the region with an average bill of $7,671 and the highest in New England.
The other northeast states in the top five are Massachusetts ($7,044), New Hampshire ($6,855) and New York ($6,673).
There is a chance it will get worse. ATTOM cautions that effective property tax rates could increase this year “amid mortgage rates that have doubled, high consumer price inflation and other forces that have cut into what home seekers can afford.”
Taxpayers to Foot the Bill for More Christmas in Connecticut Hallmark Movies
The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee held a public hearing on Friday (April 14) to expand the failing Film and Digital Media Production tax credit.
The bill according to Jeffrey Beckham, Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) will “Increase the percentage of the Film Production Tax credits that can be claimed against the Sales and Use Tax from 78 percent to 92 percent of the value of the credit for credits issued on/after Jan 1, 2024.”
Sec. Beckham — who is opposed to the bill — pointed out that the credits have already been expanded twice in the last six years. “This is already one of the most expensive tax credit programs in the state — having issued over $1.2 billion in tax credits between the fiscal year 2008 and fiscal year 2022.” He said this increase “is not advisable or desirable.”
Former Department of Economic Community Development (DECD) Commissioner David Lehman called on lawmakers — at a joint hearing of three legislative committees in 2022 — to consider capping or reducing the incentive. The agency’s own reporting found that the program amounts to a net loss of almost $60 million in total state tax revenue each year.
Yankee Institute’s Director of External Affairs, Bryce Chinault, submitted testimony opposing this bill. He argued that multiple studies have been conducted on these credits and they all show a low financial rate of return. One of the studies by Michael Thom at USC SOL Price School of Public Policy found that “On average, the only benefits were short-term gains, mostly to people who already work in the industry. Job growth was almost non-existent. Market share and industry output didn’t budge.”
Mr. Chinault suggested this money can be appropriated to other bills in front of the committee, like a tax credit for individuals and businesses to make donations to scholarship-granting organizations that “help low-income families seeking educational opportunities for their children in K-12 schools.”
“This is No Way to Run an Election”
The General Bonding Subcommittee heard from the Secretary of the State (SOTS) on Monday (April 10) on a request of $25 million in bonding to replace 20-year-old ballot tabulators statewide.
Sec. Stephanie Thomas testified that over the past five years tabulators — a scanning machine that records votes — have become “unreliable and unserviceable.”
Sec. Thomas said “If you speak to town clerks and registrars of voters, they are well aware of how these machines are failing at a regular clip in different ways. Just because of how long they’ve been in use.”
She went on to say, “This is no way for us to run our elections.”
The state’s current plan is to purchase 3000 new machines, along with secure ballot boxes. This would also require the purchase of additional ink cartridges, software licensing, delivery and installation. The office is also proposing the purchase of 10 high-speed and 30 medium-speed tabulating machines to assist with the end-of-the-night counting of absentee ballots on election day.
The new machines will also be able to accommodate rank-choice voting — should it ever get passed by the legislature. Unfortunately, they do not have the ability to cross-check signatures on absentee ballots.
The agency estimates the new tabulators will be ready for the 2024 general election.
The General Assembly Never Met a SEBAC Bonus Award They Didn’t Like
The Senate was in session on Wednesday (April 12) and voted in favor (32-3) of the Pandemic Pay Arbitration Award for certain members of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) and National Guard.
The average payout for the 34,514 unionized state employees and guard members who worked during the pandemic is $1,500 at a total cost of almost $50 million to taxpayers. According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis report, $41.5 million will come from federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and the remainder will come from state dollars.
The report also noted that this will result in an indeterminate increase in pension costs in the out years.
According to SEBAC “by approving the award with strong bipartisan support, the General Assembly showed their appreciation for the sacrifices essential state employees and their families made to keep Connecticut open and provide vital services during the height of the pandemic.”
Much less appreciation for these “sacrifices” was shown to the private sector employees who also worked throughout the pandemic. Those frontline pandemic workers only received up to $1,000 if they were making less than $50,000 a year. Those making between $50,000 and $100,000 got checks ranging from $200 to $800. Those earning between $100,000 and $150,000 only received $100.
Cost of College Not High Enough? Big Labor Can Fix That!
In a bill designed to invest and modernize our state colleges and universities, big labor is encouraging lawmakers to include language that for any construction project of $15 million or more the Board of Regents shall require bidders to pay prevailing wage and that the General Contractor or Construction Manager “engage in a good faith negotiation of a project labor agreement.”
According to AFL-CIO — one of the state’s largest labor unions — President Ed Hawthorne, “Project Labor Agreements (PLA) have been used for generations and protect communities and workers from unscrupulous contractors low-balling bids on taxpayer-funded construction projects.” In other words, he is against the state being respectful of taxpayer dollars and trying to secure the best price for state-funded projects.
On top of this policy being bad for taxpayers, however, his claim has also been proven false. In a 2020 study by the Beacon Hill Institute, it was discovered that Connecticut schools built with government-mandated PLAs had costs that were “19.8 percent more than schools that were bid and constructed through fair and open competition, free from PLA requirements.”
Mandating PLAs on future construction projects at our state universities will ensure less money is available to invest and at the same time drive up the cost of tuition for its students.
Meet Yankee Institute’s New Policy Director David Flemming
In this week’s Yankee Institute podcast Y CT Matters David discusses policy opportunities in Connecticut, his passion for research and his political ‘awakening’ and education at Hillsdale College