Capitol Connection: A Local Approach

January 23, 2015

At the annual Connecticut Council of Small Towns earlier this month, towns from the Litchfield hills to the Rhode Island border united to discuss their 2015 legislative priorities. Together, town leaders shared their ideas and made their voices heard. One united and strong voice clearly emerged – a voice that spoke out against burdens on municipalities.

Every time new costs are imposed on our towns by state agencies, towns are tasked with finding new revenue to fund the new requirements. More red tape often translates to higher local taxes, something both town officials and residents hate to see.

Connecticut is ranked as one of the worst states for property taxes, with our high fees putting us in the #2 spot, according to the Tax Foundation and Kiplinger. So this year at the Capitol, in addition to tackling our state budget, legislators need to focus on giving towns the tools they need to reduce property taxes and wrangle in their own costs. That means stopping unfunded mandates and making it easier for towns to fund their own projects.

One bill I’m proposing is “An Act Requiring Legislative Review of New Costs Imposed on Municipalities by State Agencies.” This bill would require the state legislature to review state agency decisions that have financial impacts on towns. This would help stop agencies, such as the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), from imposing unaffordable requirements on towns, like new stormwater treatment rules or leaf pickup requirements – two issues that towns have recently been fighting against.

Another bill I’m putting forward is “An Act Increasing the Prevailing Wage Threshold for Municipal Projects.” This aims to provide property tax relief by raising the threshold amount for municipal prevailing wage projects. That means many town projects would no longer be hindered by unaffordable wage costs. More money can be freed up to go back into the community and towards more municipal improvements that benefit entire communities. In addition, since some municipal projects are funded through state bonding, I am also proposing a bill that would exempt certain bond-funded projects from the prevailing wage requirements. This not only frees towns from burdensome requirements, it also could potentially result in savings for the state by reducing the costs of bonded projects, thereby resulting in decreased debt service costs; more affordable today, less debt tomorrow.

My persistent goal at the Capitol is to address statewide issues by starting at the local level. One way to do this is to make our communities more affordable to fit the needs of families and stimulate local economies. I strongly believe that reducing burdens and regulations on municipalities and helping towns find ways to lower expenses are both vital steps to improve daily life in each and every community.