Giving Towns A Financial Incentive To Step Up Their Involvement In The War On Drugs

February 16, 2010

Connecticut has had a marijuana and controlled substances tax on the books since 1991, but the state is not getting rich from it. In Fiscal Year 2008, this tax only raised about $60,000. If we’re serious about using it as a way to discourage and penalize drug dealers – and, incidentally, reap some financial benefit for law abiding taxpayers –we have to do better than that.

That is why I am once again proposing legislation to give municipalities a financial incentive for stepping up their involvement in the war on drugs. Under existing state law, the state Department of Revenue Services has the authority to collect revenues that result from drug arrests. However, municipal officials, who are already buried under paper work and the obligation to carry out scores of unfunded and underfunded mandates, do not reap any financial benefit for referring their drug arrests for state tax collection purposes.

I was disappointed last year when my idea for making the drug tax law work better did not attract much attention. While a version of my proposal did receive a public hearing, it was ultimately allowed to die in a legislative committee. Nevertheless, I am cautiously optimistic that my new, more aggressive, initiative will be more warmly received during this legislative session.

Under last year’s proposal, a municipality that reported a local drug arrest to the state Department of Revenue Services would have received 40 percent of the tax revenues collected as a result of that arrest. This year, I am proposing legislation that would permit municipalities to bypass the state and collect all of the tax revenues that result from a local drug arrest. It makes sense to assume that the possibility of a significant financial reward would act as an incentive for towns and cities to routinely take advantage of the state marijuana and controlled substances tax law. Hopefully, the revenues collected by municipalities under this law would increase over time. Everyone but the drug dealers would benefit.

The fact is that Connecticut’s fiscal situation is dire. The state has lost more than 90,000 jobs since the beginning of this national recession. State government is facing a $500 million budget deficit this year, and the possibility of much larger deficits in the next couple of years. Everyone – families, businesses, municipalities and state government – are looking for ways to make ends meet. Providing an incentive to make better use of the marijuana and controlled substances tax already on the books would not come even close to solving our fiscal problems – but every little bit helps. Certainly, any revenue collected would help towns and cities control local property taxes.

I would like to hear from you about this proposal, and other steps you believe the General Assembly should take this year to improve the quality of life in our state. As always, your input is invaluable to me as I continue my work as your voice in the State Senate. I can be reached at my legislative office in Hartford at 1-800-842-1421, or send me an e-mail at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you.