Punishing Property Tax Just Keeps Growing

Punishing Property Tax Just Keeps Growing

In all the spectacle that took place at the state Capitol last Tuesday as legislative committees rushed to bring their business to a conclusion, nothing was more off point than the dialogue that took place surrounding tax proposals before the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee.

The very idea of discussing ways to raise more revenue via state tax policy was downright repugnant to some in the General Assembly. References were made to how low we have sunk as a state to even be entertaining the discussion. A proposal to tax nonprofits was referred to as one of the top two worst proposals that have ever been considered (referencing a proposal to tax hedge funds as the only thing more shocking).

Yet in all the tax discussion, session after session, the General Assembly continues to avoid addressing the greatest social and moral taxing travesty that exists in Connecticut; the property tax.

The two most basic needs for all human existence are food and shelter. Setting economic arguments aside, legislators can stake claim to being on the moral high ground by exempting groceries from taxation. But what about the other basic human need for survival? Shelter.

Not only is shelter taxed in Connecticut, but the General Assembly continues to support doing it to the extreme. It is no secret that Connecticut has some of the highest property taxes in the nation. However, year after year, lawmakers continue to enact policies that shift a greater burden to municipalities, putting further strain, in the form of higher property taxes, on a need that is basic to human existence.

 

Economic impact of high property taxes back to top

Again, setting aside the economic impacts of high property taxes (which there are many), overtaxing shelter makes safe housing unattainable for our most vulnerable. Seniors on fixed incomes are often forced to move out of their homes due to continued property tax increases. Many who could afford to make a permanent home for their families cannot save up enough to escrow upfront property tax costs.

It is remarkable that leaders would suggest a tax on hedge funds, income, or consumption is socially deplorable, yet it is OK to use the tax on a basic human need — shelter — as the answer to all of state government’s fiscal challenges.

Some will reject this argument by stating that their budgetary proposals will not directly mean higher property taxes. That’s hardly reassuring. Just as we wouldn’t select a plumber on the basis that they won’t flood our house or a firefighter on the basis that he or she won’t throw gasoline on a flame, we shouldn’t give our state leaders a pass for simply not directly exacerbating the issues surrounding the most immoral tax problem that exists in Connecticut.

Whether tax policy is debated on economic, social, or moral grounds, policymakers are failing us if reducing the property tax is not part of their discussions.

Joe DeLong in the executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.