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From Taxing Shopping Bags To Licensing Cats, Several Bills Would Boost State Revenue

From Taxing Shopping Bags To Licensing Cats, Several Bills Would Boost State Revenue

Meriden Record Journal, March 17, 2017

By Michael Savino

As lawmakers grapple with how to close a looming deficit projected as high as $1.7 billion next fiscal year, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy isn’t the only one pitching boosts to the state’s various revenue streams.

Several committees are considering or have approved bills that would boost state revenue through increased or newly created fees, licenses, and even taxes.

Two of the more prominent examples include the legalization of marijuana and the expansion of gambling with the first casino off tribal land, initiatives that remain controversial.

The possibility of a 5-cent tax on single-use plastic and paper shopping bags, meanwhile, is making its way through the legislature after gaining approval from the Environment Committee earlier this month.

According to the bill, revenues from the tax — the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the figure at $12 million next year and $16 million annually after that — would go into a fund for maintenance and repairs at state parks.

Conservationists have applauded the bill, which received a 19-10 bipartisan committee vote, as a way to both encourage the use of reusable bags and to bolster the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s budget.

“This initiative addresses the growing problem of single-use, disposable plastic bags while also generating desperately needed funds for our resource-starved parks and other core environmental programs at DEEP,” Lori Brown, executive director of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, said during a February public hearing.

Bills drawing varied reactions back to top

The bill is drawing mixed reaction from retailers. The Connecticut Food Association, which represents food retailers, supports the bill, saying its members have been working to encourage customers to use reusable bags.

New England Convenience Store & Energy Marketers Association is opposing the bill, meanwhile, saying the 5-cent tax would hurt customers who come to their smaller stores for quick purchases.

Executive Director Joanne Mendes said many customers of smaller stores are on their way to or from work “and do not come in with reusable bags, particularly if they are in urban areas.” Other environmentally focused lawmakers announced earlier this week their plans for a carbon tax, levying surcharges on gasoline, heating oil, and natural gas. The revenues would then be redistributed through rebate checks to those who used less carbon-based fuels than the average resident.

Fuel companies warned that the bill could force some residents to seek out-of-state suppliers who can offer lower rates, while the general business community objected on the grounds that it would drive up costs.

Other proposals that could increase revenues include:

Levying a six-cent tax on medical marijuana at the dispensary level, with the revenues going to fund substance abuse programs. The proposal, from Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, is slated for a public hearing today before the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee.

Multiple bills propose a tax on soda and other drinks with added sugar, with proponents saying the surcharge will help deter people from purchasing beverages linked to higher rates of diabetes and obesity. The proposals, with several Democratic co-sponsors, are before the Finance committee, but no public hearing date has been set.

Licensing cats, similar to existing requirements for dogs. The bill, from Rep. Kelly Luxenberg, D-Manchester, appears to have stalled, though, as the Environment Committee hasn’t held a public hearing on it and only has until March 24 to vote on bills.

Raising the age requirement for vehicles to classify as antique to 30 years old, up from 20, and increasing the maximum property tax assessment from $500 to $1,000. The proposals are part of Malloy’s budget.

The Connecticut Council of Car Clubs said it had no objection to raising the age requirement, but opposed doubling the maximum assessment, which would result in higher property tax payments.

David Bjumpaa, a member of CCCC’s board of directors, said the tax is unfair to those who collect cars as a hobby, because they also have to pay taxes on vehicles that serve as their primary mode of transportation. He also said collectors of other items, such as art or coins, don’t face the same problem.