Commission looks to scrap car taxes
Published 6:16 pm, Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Democratic leaders plan to take another swing at eliminating car taxes when the General Assembly reconvenes next year during an election cycle.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, last week said a committee charged with studying regional efficiency will again look for ways to eliminate the car tax and to reimburse towns and cities for lost revenue.
"The commission will spend a considerable amount of time working on how we can phase out the motor vehicle tax," Sharkey said, referring to the Municipal Opportunities and Regional Efficiencies Commission, which is studying ways to save municipalities money.
"Everyone recognizes it is the most regressive tax," Sharkey said. "We have to make towns and cities whole and reduce or eliminate that tax."
MORE commission members brushed aside questions about whether it's possible to kill the car tax during a year in which the state's next governor will be elected.
"Tackling taxes and eliminating them is a popular thing," Sharkey said.
Towns and cities cried foul and said shutting off the car tax would hand them nearly $700 million in annual revenue losses. Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said his city would lose $13 million annually, and Stamford officials placed their potential loss at $20 million annually.
While Sharkey and other commission members on Thursday pledged to reimburse towns and cities for losses, they stopped short of saying those losses would be fully covered. Last year's proposal offered only $4.9 million in reimbursement over two years as car taxes were slowly phased out.
"We have committed to providing a level of compensation," Sharkey said.
"Taxing motor vehicles at different mill rates is crazy, and we are the only state that does it," said state Rep. Jeffrey Berger, D-Waterbury. "We are looking at ways to fund the system of reimbursement over the course of a few years and ultimately eliminate the car tax entirely."
Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein was skeptical of promises to reimburse municipalities and said her constituents don't want revenue taken from their town and given to another.
"I hope the municipal voice will be heard louder this year," Weinstein said.