wealth tax

What does ‘fair’ taxation mean in Connecticut?


Connecticut constantly hears clamor for more “fairness” in its various forms of taxation, but exactly what does this mean?

Of course the ultimate in fair taxation is when someone else pays, which usually means “the rich,” and this is most convenient politically when “the rich” are a minority small enough to be easily kicked around.

Since enactment of the state income tax in 1991 the conventional wisdom in Connecticut has been that taxes should be aimed more at the rich. While the rich already pay most of the money collected by the income tax, the political left complains that this isn’t enough because the rich still may pay a smaller percentage of their income than other groups, most of whose taxes are paid through state sales and energy taxes and municipal property taxes.

Connecticut’s property taxes are high by national standards, as most of the state’s taxes are, but property taxes here already may be skewed more toward wealth than generally thought. That’s because the wealthy tend to own more expensive homes and cars. Former state Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, notes that on a residential square-footage basis, some wealthy suburbs have higher property tax burdens than the poor cities that have the highest nominal property tax rates.

In any case the political left in Connecticut never acts seriously on its purported concern for tax fairness. There are no proposals from the left to reduce sales, energy and property taxes or to limit property taxes as has been done in other states. There are only proposals to raise income and energy taxes.

Indeed, the income tax was recently raised by a half percent on everyone in the name of financing a program of paid family and medical leave that most people will never use and that costs more than self-insurance without providing more benefits. Despite the recent explosion in gasoline and energy costs, in the name of environmentalism the political left still advocates raising gas taxes — the so-called Transportation Climate Initiative.

Nor are there ever any proposals from the political left to reduce the burden of taxes on the middle class and poor by economizing in state and municipal government, despite Connecticut’s nation-leading government labor costs. That’s because unionized state and municipal employees constitute the left-leaning army of Connecticut’s majority political party, the Democrats.

While he is a Democrat, Governor Lamont is reluctant to raise the income tax more than he has already helped to do with the family and medical leave program, since he is conscious of the steady emigration from Connecticut of prosperous people, particularly those entering retirement, for whom lower-taxed states are becoming more attractive, especially Florida, which has no state income tax.

The public also seems unenthusiastic about raising taxes, even on the rich, perhaps because it is hard to see what three decades of steadily rising taxes have accomplished for Connecticut.

The cities are poorer and more dysfunctional, school performance has not improved, more people are dependent on government instead of self-sufficient, and nearly everything is more expensive. Raising taxes has served only the government class.

In these circumstances “fair taxation” in Connecticut means only “more.”

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.



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