Boucher OP-ED: Blunt Truths About Tax Dollars…and the Will to Face Them (Last in a 4-Pt. Series)
If the very idea of a new Connecticut Mileage Tax weren’t bad enough, the concept has raised all sorts of questions from savvy and smart readers like you.
- “How will the by-the-mile tax impact programs like Meals on Wheels and Dial-A-Ride which help vulnerable seniors and the disabled?”
- “What if I drive across state lines to work every day. Will I still get tracked and taxed by Connecticut even while driving in New York?”
- “What if my family and I take a road trip vacation to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone or Disney? Will I rack up a huge Connecticut Mileage Tax bill in the process?”
That last question was posed to me during a live radio interview by WATR-AM 1320 host Larry Rifkin. All I could tell Larry was that he raised an excellent question. I had no answers for him because the Connecticut Department of Transportation applied for the federal grant to study mileage-based user fees without any notice to legislators or the public. I have since written to DOT seeking answers, but have yet to receive a response.
The Mileage Tax has touched a serious nerve among Democrats and Republicans unlike any issue I have seen before. It has truly fired up taxpayers of all ages from both parties who are fed up with tax hikes and tax hike trial balloons. I have the midnight emails from some of you to prove it, and I thank you for telling me your honest and frank opinions about the absurdities that are taking place at our State Capitol. Your frustration level is at an all-time high, and I share that frustration.
The Mileage Tax issue brings us back to the “blunt facts” I have been sharing with you regarding your Connecticut tax dollars. I want you to know where your money goes, how it is spent, and why state government is failing under its current one-party rule. To review:
- Connecticut finished the fiscal year with a $323 million budget deficit. Gov. Malloy is draining all but $83 million of the savings in our state’s emergency Rainy Day Fund, leaving it at around 0.5 percent of operating costs. A healthy reserve would be 15 percent.
- Income-tax and sales-tax receipts for 2016 were just last month revised downward by another $100 million and $25 million, respectively. In 2016 alone revenue deterioration from people moving resulted in almost $900 million in budget deficits. Forecasts for 2017 will be lower. In other words, the more they tax you, the less revenue they are getting back.
- Moody’s Investors Service stated that these tax receipts have come up short not due to Wall Street volatility, but because of Connecticut’s poor job growth. Connecticut has trailed the rest of the United States in recovering jobs lost during the Great Recession, recovering just 79-percent of our jobs. Massachusetts, by comparison, has recovered 240-percent of its lost jobs.
- The downgrading of Connecticut’s credit by Wall Street ratings agencies adds to our costs of borrowing money for school construction projects and road and bridge maintenance. Those added costs drive our state budget deficits ever higher.
- There has not been a full vote in the legislature on a state employee union contract in more than 20 years!
As your state senator, I no longer get calls or emails about important issues such as education, the environment, and health care. These days, your comments to me are nearly universally about the terrible economy, escalating costs that are driving you out of your communities and the lack of job growth.
I hear you clearly. The lawmakers in charge up in Hartford clearly do not.
For the last five-and-a-half years:
- The Democratic leadership in the House and Senate has joined the Malloy administration in pushing through anti-business policies and regulations which have stymied growth and created an uncertain economic climate.
- Connecticut families and businesses have been buried by a blizzard of taxes, fees, mandates and red tape.
- Businesses like GE have departed.
- Top taxpayers have picked up stakes to relocate to friendlier territory⎯not because of volatility on Wall Street (Wall Street affects every state) but because their expenses keeping rising in Connecticut and real disposable income is higher in other states.
The fiscal instability created by the Malloy Administration and the Democrat majorities continues to impact all of us.
Home values are climbing in tax friendly states, but they are dropping here in Connecticut. In 2014, 96,000 residents moved out of Connecticut. It is a wonder the majority party hasn’t slapped a heavy tax on outbound moving vans!
Republicans and I continue to fight for you. The present decision-makers in Hartford do not have the will to change the policies that have set us on this perilous path. They won’t face the blunt truths I have laid out for you in this series. Here’s hoping they’ll soon be replaced by those of us who will address these blunt truths head-on and save our state in the process.
Always remember: It’s our money, not the government’s, and the state can do so much better managing it.
What do you think? I value and respect your opinion. Contact me by email.
Sen. Boucher represents Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton.