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Legislators Pitch Tax Break For College Graduates Who Stay In CT And Buy House

Legislators Pitch Tax Break For College Graduates Who Stay In CT And Buy House

Hartford Courant, February 21, 2020

By Russell Blair

Looking to keep young people from leaving the state after college, the legislature’s higher education committee has proposed a bill that would offer a tax break to graduates of Connecticut colleges who stay here and purchase a home.

The “Learn Here, Live Here” program would allow college graduates to defer $2,500 a year in state income tax payments for up to 10 years, instead depositing that money into an account overseen by the state and eventually putting it toward a down payment on a home.

Graduates would be required to remain in Connecticut for five years after they receive the money back from the state fund or else pay a portion of it back to the state.

The bill was scheduled to be discussed at a public hearing Thursday.

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 “Connecticut must focus on strategies to retain more young people if it is going to have the talent needed for our economy to grow,” Jennifer Widness, president of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, wrote in testimony submitted to the higher education committee.

She said Connecticut only retains 38% of its college graduates, ranking 37th in the nation.

Shannon King, government affairs associate for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, wrote in her testimony that 8,861 college graduates left Connecticut in 2016 to find jobs in other states.

“Assisting young professionals to save for a down payment on a house is an incentive that ensures in-state longevity and facilitates growth in the housing market,” she said.

A down payment for a house in Connecticut averages $51,000, according to King’s testimony.

But Gov. Ned Lamont’s economic development commissioner, David Lehman, wrote in his testimony to the committee that he had concerns about the logistics of such a program, as well as its cost to the state in terms of lost tax dollars and additional personnel that would be needed.

“We believe the large fiscal cost to the state would not necessarily provide a great return on investment as it could potentially only end up supporting a very small number of graduates, many of whom were already planning to live here in our state,” Lehman said.