Small Towns Speak Out Against Malloy's Car Tax Plan

Small town leaders from across the state were at the state capitol today.  As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, they were there to push back against one of Governor Dannel Malloy's budget proposals -- the elimination of some car taxes.

Malloy wants to eliminate the property tax for cars worth less than $28,000.  He says it will provide middle class tax relief and that it will curtail the "most hated and regressive tax in the state."
 
John Elsesser doesn't like the tax, either. He's the town manager for Coventry.
 
"We welcome the discussion about property tax.  Because for years we've been talking about some of the inequities of property tax.  We don't think, however, that removing the taxation on autos is the right treatment for the illness of property tax."
 
State residents pay car and property taxes to their local towns and cities.   Malloy has said local governments could save some money by not having to collect the taxes. In a statement, he defended his plan and said towns and cities will have to do what the state has done -- make hard decisions and set priorities. 
 
But these local leaders say getting rid of the property tax only leaves a hole in their budgets -- a hole they'll have to fill by raising the property tax on people's homes.   Barbara Gilbert is the town manager in Rocky Hill. She says the average house now pays $5,200 in taxes.  If the car tax goes away, the owners of that house will pay $500 more.
 
"When you look at those numbers, this turns out to be a tax mandate being placed on the municipalities by the State of Connecticut."
 
Robert Mallozzi is the first selectman form the town of New Canaan. He says eliminating the car tax might save him $30,000 -- money he won't have to spend to collect the tax.  But it would cost him $2 million in real tax dollars. 
 
"If that's the kind of logic that is presented to us, then people like me have to come up here and speak to this folly.  Because that's what it is."
 
The press conference at the capitol was organized by the Connecticut Council of Small Towns.
 
For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen.