Alex Knopp served as Mayor, State Representative and Common Council member for Norwalk and now is a Visiting Clinical Lecturer at Yale Law School.
Connecticut’s next Governor must confront the twin challenge of balancing the state budget in the face of a substantial deficit while reducing Connecticut’s worst-in-the-nation property tax burden that stifles economic growth in Norwalk and other urban centers.
The Stefanowski Republican proposal to repeal the income tax will take $11 billion from the state’s already strained $18 billion budget. It is unrealistic and impossible to achieve. And even if it could be implemented, such a massive reduction in state revenue would inevitably increase property taxes in Norwalk and in every other Connecticut town.
And that increase in property tax will be particularly detrimental to education funding for Norwalk and other underfunded schools across the state.
The state’s largest cities will be hit the hardest. If state aid to municipalities is cut to pay for Stefanowski’s state revenue reduction, property taxes in Norwalk would likely increase by 24 percent and the median extra tax bill would be $1,863 – a financial burden most of our residents cannot afford to bear.
More than $10 million in direct aid to Norwalk public schools, and millions more in Town Road Aid Grants, money for Local Capital Improvement Projects, and PILOT funds to make up for taxes not assessed against Norwalk Hospital and other not-for-profit and state land would also be eliminated.
I favor electing a governor who takes a more realistic view of attacking the state deficit without shifting the tax burden to property tax payers in Norwalk and other municipalities. That’s why I favor Democratic candidate Ned Lamont’s proposal to provide property tax relief for the middle class that would reduce the financial burden placed on Connecticut residents, an important step in reducing the economic disparity gap in our state.
Ned Lamont’s plan to expand the property tax credit against state income taxes would benefit 900,000 Connecticut taxpayers, providing nearly $700 to working families annually.
There is a clear contrast between Lamont’s targeted middle class property tax relief plan versus the implausible Stefanowski plan to eliminate the income tax which if ever implemented will cut funding for economic development programs, education, public safety, environmental protection, job training and healthcare services for one in every five residents.
The kind of benefit provided by the Lamont property tax relief plan is even more important following the Trump new tax law that severely limits the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes. That so-called SALT deduction limitation hits Connecticut taxpayers the second worst of any state in the country. The Lamont tax relief plan will restore some of the tax mitigation taken away by the Trump attack on middle-income families in Blue States.
It’s been interesting to note that even petitioning candidate Oz Griebel — a Republican candidate for governor in 2014 – has joined Ned Lamont in doubting the viability of the Stefanowski income tax and criticizing Stefanowski during the debates for failing to explain how state aid to cities and towns could survive a reduction of one-half of all state revenue.
But in our winner-take-all state elections, the Griebel petitioning candidacy carries the risk of unintentionally electing a statewide Republican candidate who Griebel opposes. Therefore, I ask Griebel supporters in Norwalk to consider that a vote for Griebel is effectively a vote for Stefanowski. I urge supporters of the Griebel petitioning candidacy to vote for Lamont to avoid electing Stefanowski by accident.
I’m convinced that Ned Lamont knows that Connecticut needs an honest state budget coupled with priority investment for economic relief and revitalization. His proposal for property tax relief and his vision of an honest and realistic state budget embody what is best for Norwalk and our state going forward.