State Senate Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, recently proposed a new tax on Connecticut homeowners, at least those who live in houses with a marketable value above $430,000. It is being called a “mansion tax,” which belies the fact that the median home in Connecticut is (or was in 2019) valued at $359,000. Since there are 1,500,000 housing units in the state, that means a lot of people are going to see their property taxes go up, and Connecticut is already ranked third highest in the country in that regard.
The State is already stressed: high taxes, high home prices, high unemployment and a high level of government employees based on population. Connecticut ranks 13th, in terms of a state income tax. It is the 12th most expensive state in which to buy a house. In December 2020, unemployment in Connecticut was 8.2% versus 6.7% for the country. With 115 government workers per 10,000 population, the state has more than double what Florida has (56) and almost double what Georgia has (68). Those concerns have not gone unnoticed by a mobile population. During the five years between 2015 and 2020, while the United States gained more than 10 million people, Connecticut lost about 30,000 residents. Unfunded liabilities for public sector pension and health plans will, if not addressed, at some point bankrupt the state.
Connecticut’s legislative and executive branches are creative in seeking more revenue to feed the beast they have created. Many of their proposals, such as sports betting and legalizing pot, are, in fact, regressive, in that those who can least afford the cost bear the brunt. If this tax has one redeeming feature, it is that it is not regressive. Nevertheless, since the tax will also be applied to commercial buildings, consumers will pay, and consumption taxes are regressive.
What is most disheartening, however, is that no effort is made by the legislature to rein in spending, no effort is made to look at the long term consequences of decisions, which are aimed at giving something to voters, without asking for anything in return, except a vote. How far we have traveled since President Kennedy proclaimed: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
The purpose of government is not to find ever more sources of revenue. It is to protect our inalienable rights, rights not granted by government, but which flow from our nature as a free and independent people – freedom to speak, pray, gather in protest and to own property. We are a society that functions under a rule of law that treats all people equally, where justice is blind. If our Founders had wanted a government that provided cradle to grave security, they would not have created a government “of, by and for the people;” they would have endowed political leaders with absolute power over a dependent people.
Like all new taxes, this one is analogous to the camel getting his nose under the tent. It won’t stop at one mill per $1000 of assessed value, and it won’t be limited to “mansions” over $300,000 of assessed value. Tax spigots, once turned on, are not turned off. Now is the time to say no to Hartford.
Sydney M. Williams