Opinion Column: Hartford Democrats Declare War on Greenwich
By Edward Dadakis
Last week was not a good one for Greenwich taxpayers in the newly Democrat dominated General Assembly. Hartford Democrats, unfettered now by Republican fiscal restraint, proposed legislation which essentially declares war on Greenwich taxpayers.
The first salvo in that war was actually fired by Greenwich’s own Senator, the newly elected Democrat, Alex Bergstein. She introduced the very first bill of the session—to tax folks $1 billion annually by requiring tolls across Connecticut. The current plan is to build 84 large toll gantries on various Connecticut highways including I-95 and the Merritt Parkway. In fact, that current plan calls for two toll gantries in Greenwich. Congratulations Greenwichites.
Tolls are bad for Greenwich. They will add significant congestion to local roads as people try to avoid paying them. Also, because so many of our public sector employees come from further upstate, Bergstein’s tolls will add hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to their annual commuting costs. If that cost is not covered for them by Greenwich taxpayers (meaning higher taxes for you) they may well look for employment elsewhere.
Bergstein claims that tolls will miraculously eliminate congestion on Connecticut roadways and the toll cost will be more than offset by savings from not sitting in traffic. Does anyone really believe that?
Bergstein is quite wealthy, so such additional costs are likely meaningless to her, but they won’t be meaningless to a lot of others who travel to or from Greenwich to work.
Following on Bergstein’s toll bill, Martin Looney, the Senate President (chosen by Hartford Democrats) and Bergstein’s boss, introduced legislation to raise taxes statewide. Such taxes would fall disproportionately on Greenwich taxpayers (as if you couldn’t already guess that).
The first tax is the Hartford Democrats much desired statewide car tax. They’ve been intending to impose this tax for years but there used to be enough Republicans in office to protect us. Now, Greenwich taxpayers will see their car tax increase in the range of 50 to 100 percent. Simultaneously, residents in many other communities will see their car tax plummet.
And that’s not even the worst part. The way I read the proposal, car taxes will be drained from the municipalities and surrendered to Hartford for redistribution.
Currently, Greenwich collects about $8 million in car taxes, which funds town expenditures. If that revenue is taken by Hartford Democrats, then Greenwich citizens will have to ante up an additional $8 million.
Hartford Democrats also are now proposing a statewide property tax on your home. I’ve warned about this for years and was frequently ridiculed by local Democrats that it would never happen but here it is in fact. This tax would impose a mill rate of 1 on property across Connecticut. While the rate is less than previous proposals, you can bet tax driven Hartford Democrats will raise it higher and higher in the years to come just as they did with Weicker’s income tax.
What does a 1 mill rate increase mean to Greenwich property owners? The current mill rate is about 11 so an increase of 1 mill means your taxes will increase about 9%. Yet that same mill rate increase in, say, Martin Looney’s New Haven district would be less than 2%. You can be certain the Democrat controlled state legislature will find a way to exempt lower valued properties below anything that exists in Greenwich so this tax is likely to adversely impact Fairfield County far more than anywhere else.
There are other poison pills in the legislation proposed by Alex Bergstein’s caucus. One is requiring the combining of and regionalization of school districts likely stripping control of schools from local citizens. It doesn’t take a psychic to see that once Hartford Democrats are allowed to do that, they will also snag the dollars we spend on education away from us. The impact on Greenwich public schools could be devastating.
The last time Democrats had this dominant of a majority in Hartford, there was at least a Republican Governor to put on the brakes. Now, there is no one to stop these outrageous tax policies, which will drive more people from our state depressing property values and reducing tax revenue even further. Then Democrats will raise tax rates still higher and the vicious circle will continue.
Elections have consequences. We finally had this state headed in a better direction with a balance between Republicans and Democrats in Hartford but Greenwich decided they wanted more Democrats to represent them in Hartford. Unfortunately, this is what you get.
Edward Dadakis, a lifelong Greenwich resident, has served more then 37 years on the RTM, having been first elected as one of its youngest members. He is a former chairman of the Greenwich Republican Party and currently represents our 36th Senatorial District on the Connecticut Republican State Central Committee.