Bristol leaders to state: We want our MVT (motor vehicle tax)

March 15, 2013

Article as it appeared in the Bristol Press
By Steve Collins
Staff Writer

BRISTOL — City officials are calling for the General Assembly to scrap Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposal to eliminate the motor vehicle property tax levied by municipalities.

City officials said it would leave a $9 million hole in the city’s annual budget.

Republican city Councilor Ken Cockayne, a mayoral candidate, said the impact “would be catastrophic.”

Mayor Art Ward said axing the motor vehicle tax would require a 2.25-mil jump to the regular property tax to make up the difference.

Combined with other pieces of Malloy’s proposed spending plan, the city could be left reeling, the mayor said.

“All that adds up to disaster city, for all the cities,” said Board of Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski.

State Sen. Jason Welch, a Bristol Republican, said Malloy’s budget plan counts on gaining $21 million from the motor vehicle tax elimination “because car owners will no longer be able to claim a credit for vehicle taxes on their (state) income-tax returns.”

He said the governor’s plan offers “a tax cut that will raise our taxes and increase state revenue.”

Former city Councilor Tom Ragaini said he doesn’t know how the city could make up for the loss of motor-vehicle tax money.

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo said there’s a lot to work out regarding the concept.

He said it “may not be such a bad idea” if officials can find a way to minimize the blow.

Supporters of the governor’s plan say motor-vehicle taxes are unfair because residents of wealthy towns wind up paying much less for the same car than those in poor cities where mil rates are higher.

But detractors said Malloy doesn’t offer any alternative for cities to make up for the large revenue losses that would accompany the elimination of motor-vehicle taxes.

Towns and cities are also slated to take it on the chin, said state Rep. Whit Betts, a Bristol Republican.

“I feel very bad for the towns right now,” Betts said. Local leaders “are up in arms” across Connecticut, he said.

Betts said it is “not possible” for municipalities to absorb the reductions that Malloy would impose.

Welch said the proposal raises money for the state “and punishes towns.”

Betts said that taxpayers are “clearly the underdogs” heading into the looming budget showdown.

Ward said the way things are shaping up, he wouldn’t be surprised if there is no state budget until September, a move that would “put us in a quagmire.”

City Comptroller Glenn Klocko said if the state adopts a budget that late, it might require Bristol to send out supplemental property tax bills.

Steve Collins can be reached at (860) 584-0501, ext. 7254, or at [email protected]