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Personal Property Taxes Were Not Designed To Fund State Obligations

Published: September 21, 2017

To the Editor:

In a March 15 meeting held before the Newtown Legislative Council regarding the budget and the state’s plan to charge towns for teacher’s pensions, Secretary of Office of Policy and Management Ben Barnes said that the state couldn’t have the towns pay directly into the teachers’ pension fund because that would cause legal problems. Instead, he and Governor Malloy cooked up a scheme to bill the towns and have them pay the state, who would then in turn pay the pension fund. Mr Barnes essentially admitted that this multimillion-dollar annual invoice to the town would be used specifically to transfer money from private individual property taxpayers to benefit a third-party private pension fund, and that this invoice would continue to grow each year. What’s more, he didn’t even acknowledge that responsibility for the teachers’ pension fund is the sole obligation of the state. Malloy’s plan is to cause the towns to tax the value of your home, which is supposed to fund your own retirement, and then transfer it to the state to help pay for someone else’s retirement. If it wasn’t legal to do it directly it shouldn’t be legal to do it indirectly either.

Property taxes are levied by a town to fund roads, bridges, schools etc, and not to be used as another state revenue source that will grow every year and have nothing to do with why a property tax was established in the first place. Additionally, this tax is highly regressive since it will dramatically raise the property tax on every homeowner regardless of ability to pay. It will also depress real estate prices. Homes will be worth less because costs wholly unrelated to the upkeep of the town will be part of your annual tax bill.

The financial damage to town budgets should prove to be the undoing of this massive and unending property theft structure, and indeed, I suspect this is the reason even some Democrats rejected Malloy’s budget. Connecticut is going to have to live within the existing structure for raising revenue and if there isn’t enough revenue they will have to reduce costs, just like every household in Connecticut does every time taxes are raised without a corresponding wage increase at work. Malloy’s extension of the state employee unions workers benefits for ten years was designed to eliminate all future debate on public sector benefits. He wanted to create a crisis and a false choice between less funding for towns or a terrible budget balanced with a brand-new state property tax disguised as an invoice from the state to every town.

Teachers ought to be upset with the state, but should town resident’s homes and autos be responsible for paying their pensions through forced increases in property taxes? Absolutely not. Our home and automobile property taxes were not designed to fund such a state obligation, and the state needs to look elsewhere for the solution or all towns will end up as financially untenable as Hartford.

 

Sincerely,

Joe Kearney

Daniels Hill Road, Newtown          September 19, 2017

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