Tuesday, August 09, 2022

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RTM Restores $115,000 to Transit District

By James Lomuscio

As Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) Monday night approved a $76,251,688 municipal budget for next year, one town department took center stage — the Westport Transit District (WTD).

In April, the Board of Finance denied the restoration of $115,000 it had cut from the WTD’s proposed $355,000 budget in an attempt to phase out its underutilized shuttle service to the town’s two train stations.

But Monday night, the shuttle service, a perennial whipping boy of the finance board, caught another reprieve from the RTM.

The legislative body restored $115,000 by a vote of 32 to 0 with 1 abstention, far more than the supermajority the RTM needed to overturn the finance board.

Lawmakers Running Out of Time to Find New Transportation Funding Plan

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

With less than a month left until adjournment, state lawmakers are no closer — at least on paper — to charting a new course for Connecticut’s overburdened, decaying transportation system.

Though somewhat dysfunctional by design, the legislature’s latest budget proposals — which don’t feature tolls — would leave the Special Transportation Fund nearly $11.5 million in deficit by 2021, according to a new, nonpartisan analysis.

And while Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont continues to rally support for electronic tolling on the state’s major highways, Republican minorities in the House and Senate are pressing equally hard for a non-toll alternative that relies exclusively on borrowing.

“I think everybody realizes there is a level of punting that’s going on,” House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, said today, referring to separate Democratic proposals for transportation spending and revenue adopted last week that are out of balance.

Democrats Push Back on Lamont, Renew Bid to Tax CT’s Wealthiest Households

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

UPDATE Gov. Ned Lamont and his fellow Democrats in the legislature appear to be headed for a showdown over taxing the rich to help solve Connecticut’s pension debt crisis.

One day after gutting a 2 percent surcharge on capital gains earnings by the wealthy, the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee was expected to revive the surcharge.

The surcharge was the centerpiece of a new revenue plan that would scale back Lamont’s efforts to broaden the sales tax, but also slow his initiative to provide property tax relief to the middle class.

The committee’s plan also would:

For Now, Legislators Defer to Lamont on Capital Gains

By Keith M. Phaneuf, Mark Pazniokas, and Kathleen Megan

www.ctmirror.org

On spending and taxes, Democratic legislators took their lead today from the more moderate fiscal positions of Gov. Ned Lamont, less a surrender to the governor than a postponement of a debate still to come.

The legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee gutted a bill to boost income taxes on Connecticut’s wealthiest, siding with Lamont over progressive lawmakers. The new measure makes no change in tax rates, mandating only a study of the capital gains income of the state’s top earners.

The action in finance came as Democrats on the Appropriations Committee were explaining why tens of millions of dollars in proposed spending increases were being scrapped.

The goal, sources said, was to bring spending proposals for each of the next two fiscal years in line with the total amounts the Democratic governor offered in February.

Biden Enters the Fray, But Will CT Dems Back Him?

By Ana Radelat

www.ctmirror.org

Washington — Former Vice President Joe Biden today jumped into a crowded field of Democrats running for the White House, but whether his record and name recognition will win over Connecticut Democrats, who may not even have a chance to vote for him, is up for debate.

Biden has 19 other Democratic rivals for his party’s nomination to the top of the 2020 ticket and, even before he announced his candidacy Thursday, Biden led those competitors in public opinion polls.

But it’s not guaranteed that Connecticut voters will get to cast their votes for Biden in Connecticut’s presidential primary.

That’s because the state’s primary is now scheduled for April 28, 2020, after most of the nation has had a chance to select their favored Democratic presidential candidate.

Connecticut House Endorses Early Voting, 125-24

By Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

A supermajority in the House of Representatives voted tonight for a resolution authorizing a referendum on amending the Connecticut Constitution to permit early voting, a convenience now permitted in most other states.

If the Senate concurs by a similar margin, voters will be asked in 2020 if they want to remove a constitutional prohibition on early voting. A Senate vote of less than 75 percent in favor would delay a referendum by at least two years.

Connecticut is one of 12 states without early voting at the polls and only one of three whose state constitutions currently bar it. In 2018, nearly 40 million Americans in 38 states and the District of Columbia went to the polls before election day.

“Tonight’s vote is a strong, bipartisan statement in favor of making voting easier for voters,” said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.

Himes: No Conclusion on Impeachment

WestportNow.com Image
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes told a Westport Unitarian Church meeting tonight that “I have not developed a strong sense of conviction on impeach or don’t impeach yet” following release of the Mueller Report. He spoke at an event organized by the activist group Indivisible Connecticut 4. Himes said Congress should gather more information. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

RTM Approves $4.75 Million for New Turf Fields, Staples Track

By James Lomuscio

By a 29 to 1 vote, Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) tonight approved a $4,785,269 appropriation to replace four synthetic turf fields and the Staples High School running track, improvements an engineer said should serve the town well for up to 24 years. WestportNow.com Image
Workers tug at the snythetic turf laid down on the Staples High School football field in August 2006. It was the first of four such fields created in Westport. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

RTM member Greg Kraut, who did not offer input at tonight’s meeting, was the lone dissenter.

Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Fava made the request, which had been approved by the Board of Finance after a $200,000 cut from the initial $5,040,400 request

First Selectman Jim Marpe spoke in favor of the appropriation, saying that the plan to replace the four synthetic, turf fields had been in the town’s five-year capital forecast since 2015.

House Authorizes Columbarium (After Looking It Up)

By Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

A bill to authorize the use of a lighthouse to store cremated remains. A measure urging accommodations in the workplace for breastfeeding mothers. The regulation of e-scooters. It was an eclectic day of business today at the Connecticut House of Representatives.

The votes on those bills are a sign of the season, the time when the General Assembly begins to act on the legislation stacked up on the House and Senate calendars. They shared two traits: They were not partisan and easily won passage in one or more legislative committee.

“The bills that pass out of committee with no opposition or very little are easier to run earlier,” said House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford. “As we get into May, we get into meatier bills or weightier bills. This is pretty par for the course.”

The day’s business could not, however, be described as entirely routine, not when there was a debate on “An Act Concerning the Use of the Penfield Reef Lighthouse as a Columbarium.”

Trump Tax Plan SALT Cap Has Silver Lining for CT

By Ana Radelat

www.ctmirror.org

Washington — “Blue” states like Connecticut that fought against the Trump tax plan’s cap on state and local tax deductions are now seeing a silver lining — people turned to municipal bonds to lower their tax burden, which in turn lowered borrowing rates for state governments.

The new tax law capped the amount of state and local taxes, known as SALT, that taxpayers could deduct from their federal income tax at $10,000 this year. That drew howls of protests from “blue,” or Democratic-leaning, states whose taxpayers would more likely be hurt by the cap on deductions.

Connecticut joined a number of other states, including New York, California and New Jersey, to sue to block that change because their states have high costs of living, high incomes and high state and property taxes that, before the change, provided their residents with a valuable tax break.

But, having lost that tax break, there’s been a rush by taxpayers this year to replace it with municipal bonds which act as a tax shelter for income and can lower a person’s federal tax burden, and in some cases, their state and local tax burdens, too.