To the Editor:
Let's get the obvious out of the way.
Property taxes - regressively and disproportionally - hurt middle- and lower-income homeowners, so that others may benefit. Moreover, Connecticut's overreliance on property taxes to fund local services, such as schools, creates a burden for most residents in most cities and towns throughout the state.
We have made substantial progress in stabilizing property taxes for the last three years through hundreds of millions of dollars in additional aid to towns and cities to offset local costs. In addition, efforts to share more services between municipalities have had some success in reducing local expenses. However, with Connecticut's surplus projected to reach almost $1 billion, the time is now to provide direct relief to homeowners who need it the most by bringing back the property tax credit on state income tax.
I am proposing a property tax credit of at least $1,000 as I have done in each of the last three years. This time, Governor Lamont and some legislative leaders have signaled support if the numbers make sense when balancing the budget and future-year projections.
Providing direct relief to families immediately helps combat cost of living increases. Still, long-term property tax reform is needed to ensure municipal expenses do not continue to increase at levels that ultimately makes a property tax credit worthless. Unfortunately, reforming the property tax system could become political and controversial.
We should start, though, with the state covering additional expenditures that municipalities now do, such as special education costs, fully funding Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grants and PILOT [payment in lieu of taxes] programs. The state must also create more incentives for towns to share and consolidate services with neighboring cities and towns and encourage economic development to grow grand lists.
While we continue to battle COVID-19 and its economy wide impact, such as increased inflation and product costs, direct property tax relief will have a lasting, positive effect on a family's ability to manage household budgets. Therefore, it should be a top priority in this legislative session.
State Rep. Gary Turco