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Mother's Advice On The Car Tax



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Mother’s Advice On The Car Tax

Steeped, as we are, in Connecticut’s political traditions, we think it is probably time for an addition to Mother’s List of Admonitions. Somewhere between “You’ll put your eye out!” and “Don’t take candy from strangers!” there should be “Beware of state officials promising municipal funding!”

We don’t think of Gov M. Jodi Rell as a stranger. As a Brookfield neighbor, she has won our admiration and approval in her slow and steady rise to power. So our inclination was to applaud her State of the State speech to the Legislature on February 8, especially her bold attempt to address property tax reform by proposing the elimination of property taxes on motor vehicles in Connecticut. The state, according to the governor, would make up the $497 million in revenue Connecticut’s towns and cities currently collect in motor vehicle taxes by redirecting state revenues from Connecticut’s two Indian casinos to municipalities and by repealing the property tax credit. It is a sweet offer, but Connecticut’s 169 towns and cities have been blinded before by pointed promises from the state to reimburse local governments.

Remember the 1980s, when the state mandated school reforms, which it promised to pay for? It took only a few years for that local revenue stream to slow to a trickle. The state also promised to pay for the elimination of property taxes on boats and planes with higher registration fees — another promise that never really panned out.

Newtown would lose more than $5 million in annual revenue with the elimination of motor vehicle taxes. If the governor manages to get her proposal through the Legislature, we would take Mrs Rell at her word, trusting that the reimbursement would come as promised, so long as she stays in office and so long as the Legislature is sitting on a $500 million surplus. But Connecticut’s political tradition has shown us repeatedly that things change, surpluses don’t stick around forever, and neither do politicians as forthright and well intentioned as Mrs Rell.

Newtown doesn’t need a new $5 million hole in its budget when local officials are already struggling to makes ends meet. So as we watch with interest the debate unfold on Gov Rell’s car tax proposal, we will not forget Mother’s advice: Beware!

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