Untrue to form, legislative panel likely to act early on part of Malloy budget plan
Hartford - For those with long political memories, Monday's announcement by the legislature's tax-writing committee came as a bit of a shock.
The panel may actually vote out the tax part of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's budget plan - all $1.5 billion of it - on time.
Certainly not, in a state where the General Assembly has been notoriously lax on meeting its deadlines, what Capitol watchers have come to expect.
But there they were, the co-chairwomen of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, saying that a vote on a revised version of the governor's tax plan could come on Thursday, or perhaps even as early as today.
Discussions between the Democrat-controlled committee and the administration of the Democratic governor are apparently going more smoothly than they did with Malloy's Republican predecessor, M. Jodi Rell. This year's committee deadline is April 27.
"There's no comparison to the recent past," Sen. Eileen Daily, D-Westbrook, told reporters Monday. "Much more progress is being made. The give-and-take is much better. The administration has been very willing to listen."
Fellow co-chair Patricia Widlitz, D-Branford/Guilford, gave a similar assessment.
"They've been very constructive meetings," Widlitz said. "They were very congenial, very constructive, and there was a lot of give and take."
Nevertheless, Widlitz said to expect changes in Malloy's package of tax increases. Neither she nor Daily would divulge what those bill amendments might be. Discussions were still ongoing Monday, they said.
"I think people will be happy with the results of those discussions," Widlitz said.
Such collegial relations are atypical in budget negotiations, but not overly surprising this year - the first time in more than 20 years in which a Democratic governor has served with a Democratic-majority General Assembly.
Malloy's two-year, $40-billion budget calls for spending cuts of nearly $760 million and a slate of tax increases totaling $1.5 billion. That tax increase would be the largest in Connecticut history on a per-dollar basis, yet smaller when adjusted for inflation than the 1991 tax increases of then-Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr., who established the state income tax.
Republicans in the legislature are to unveil today an alternative budget plan that they say wouldn't raise taxes.
Also Monday, the finance committee put on hold a controversial piece of Malloy's budget that would start taxing private boats and aircraft as personal property. Widlitz said the committee wants to consider elements of the governor's budget as a whole.
"We had thought perhaps it would be ready today so we put it on the agenda just in case, but it's on hold," Widlitz said of the property tax measure.
The bill would allow municipalities to levy property taxes on boats and planes at a rate of 20 mills. The tax would be collected in the towns where the owners reside and is projected to generate nearly $43 million a year for towns and cities.
It is one of several new taxes on boat owners and buyers in Malloy's budget. His plan also seeks to impose a 3 percent luxury tax on top of the sales tax for boats valued at more than $100,000 and automobiles valued at more than $50,000.
In addition, the budget would raise the state sales tax on most consumer purchases from 6 percent to 6.35 percent.
Connecticut's boating and aviation industries strongly opposed the tax measures.
State Rep. Elissa Wright, D-Groton, a vice chair of the finance committee, said Monday that she is also concerned about the impact of new boating taxes.
"They may have a net negative effect on jobs," Wright said. "Many of the members of our caucus have a lot of concerns."