Starting to Think the State isn’t Serious About Property Tax Reform
On Tuesday (May 16) the Senate voted against a scheme to increase the uniform assessment rate for property tax from 70 percent to 75 percent. Instead, lawmakers chose to have a task force formed to study the matter for the future.
The original bill — which was modeled on a similar one introduced earlier this year by President Pro Tempore Sen. Martin Looney (D-11) — would have increased the assessment rate on real and personal property but did not require municipalities to adjust their mill rates to coincide with the rate increase.
The Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) revealed, “If this policy had been in place for fiscal year 2023, grand list year 2021, the impact on grand lists would have been an increase of approximately $27.6 billion across all municipalities.” Hartford is not included in the estimate because their assessment rate is set separately from the state.
According to OFA, the bill would have also resulted in costs to municipalities for assessment increase notices and software updates. It would also result in a cost to the state of roughly $15.8 million in the out years due to the way payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) grants are calculated.
Sen. Ryan Fazio (R-36) argued that some municipalities would use this as a chance to raise new revenues by not reducing mill rates to offset the increase. He said, “The political reality of the matter would lead to a tax increase on middle-class families in property taxes they pay every year.”
Sen. Fazio offered an amendment to increase the scope of the tax force to include “all the reasons that we have such a high property tax burden in this state, examine what those excess mandates or excess costs that the state government impose are, what the trade-offs are and what we could do to roll those back in a reasonable and safe and prudent manner to both reduce the tax burden and ensure that we’re delivering good services on a local level.”
Co-sponsor of the amendment, Sen. Rob Sampson (R-16) said increasing the scope of the study can help “find ways to help towns reduce property taxes.” He went on to say, “We really should look at how this body and the state government as a whole impacts towns through the creation of unfunded mandates and requirements that ultimately end up costing municipalities more and are passed on to every property taxpayer in our state.”
Opponent to the amendment, Sen. Looney, agreed that “the property tax is the one burdensome tax in the state of Connecticut, more so than any tax levied directly by the state.” He attributes this to the “lack of any kind of regional governance structure.” He also noted that “the reality is almost every other state has county government so that there are three levels of government taxation in the state.”
The amendment failed across party lines 23-12.
The bill was eventually passed — also across party lines 22-12 — and according to Sen. Looney the findings of the study will give the General Assembly “information that can be of use in forming legislation in the 2024 session.”
The bill now awaits a vote in the House.
Big Labor and Lawmakers Will Have to Wait to Intervene with the Free Market
A bill that would set mandatory pay levels for rideshare drivers for companies like Instacart and Uber was amended by the Senate on Wednesday (May 17) to form a task force to study the issue.
The legislation — heavily supported by big labor, Working Families Party and Connecticut Communist Party USA — is intended to increase driver pay, however it could have a negative impact on both drivers and those who utilize their services. It was estimated drivers would be paid $36 per hour plus $1.30 per mile which when passed down to the consumer will make utilizing these services not possible for many people.
The task force is charged with submitting a report on the costs, benefits and feasibility of establishing minimum pay standards and making further recommendations for policy or legislation. It will also look at the impact that lack of pay standardization has on a driver’s ability to make a “fair and sufficient living,” the out-of-pocket expenses borne by drivers and an analysis of network companies’ net profits.
If the bill passes the House and is signed by Gov. Ned Lamont the report will be due no later than Jan. 1, 2024.
Another Attack on Small Business
The Senate passed a bill expanding the 2011 paid sick day mandate on Connecticut’s businesses on Thursday (May 18) across party lines 20-12.
Currently, employers with less than 50 employees are exempt from being forced to provide paid sick time. This bill removes this exemption and allows all workers to accrue up to forty hours of paid sick days a year — once that employee has worked at the business for 100 days. Workers will also be allowed to use paid sick days to care for immediate family members who may be sick or injured.
The bill will affect approximately 1.6 million workers and will require the Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL) to hire two Wage Enforcement Agents and a Staff Attorney to administer this expansion costing roughly $326,000 for salary and fringe benefits.
Testimony in opposition to the bill from Eric Gjede, Vice President of Public Policy at the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA), praised the 2011 General Assembly that “saw the wisdom of excluding Connecticut’s smallest businesses and manufacturing sector from the sick leave mandate.”
Mr. Gjede said expanding this to all employers will be “economically devastating,” because businesses are still dealing with pandemic-related challenges from inflation, supply chain concerns and workforce issues.
Additionally, Andy Markowski, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) State Director called the mandate “well-meaning but economically harmful. And that employers already allow for a “great amount of flexibility” when employees need time off.
Yankee Institute Labor Fellow, Frank Ricci stated in written testimony that “mandating sick days will increase the costs of doing business, which is likely to be passed on both to consumers in the form of higher prices and to employees in the form of reduced benefits or wages. It could also lead to negative economic consequences such as job losses, reduced investment, and decreased competitiveness. It will certainly deter any new company from deciding to locate in Connecticut.”
AFL-CIO, one of the state’s largest labor unions and active proponent of never-ending business mandates, supports the bill. AFL-CIO President Ed Hawthorne said access to paid sick leave is “more critical than ever.” He went on to say that “paid sick leave provided in the federal Families First Coronavirus Relief Act in 2020 was successful in ‘flattening the curve’ of COVID-19 transmissions and reduced COVID-19 cases in certain areas by 400 cases per day. These results demonstrate that paid sick leave is not just important for workers. It’s important for public health.”
Unions Against Government Transparency
The Service Employees Internation Union (SEIU) is supporting a bill passed by the Senate on Thursday (May 18) that exempts the addresses of any government employee — state and local — from being released through the Freedom of Information Act.
SEIU said there are “nefarious organizations that seek to utilize mass FOIA requests to obtain employees information.” Apparently, they were not happy when their union members received letters in the mail – after addresses were obtained through FOIA – advising them of their Constitutional right to not be in a union.
Brian Anderson, legislative director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 4, also supports the legislation citing several of his members have “experienced harassment from so-called ‘sovereign citizens’ and other people with extreme political views.” He did not offer any specific examples.
The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information (CCFOI) opposes the bill and pointed out that “statutes already exempt certain personnel in agencies where such release might represent a threat to personal safety.”
CCFOI stated “FOIA helps ensure accountability for public employees, paid with public dollars to work on the public’s behalf. A public employee’s residential address is an important factual piece of information in accomplishing that goal.”
This Week on Yankee Institute’s Podcast Y CT Matters
With session winding down and the budget taking shape, Reps. Holly Cheeseman (R-37) and Tammy Nuccio (R-53) discuss the importance of the 2017 bipartisan budget’s fiscal guardrails on the current proceedings, and ways to improve the overall process so Connecticut can avoid economic hardships.
Click HERE to listen.