Op-Ed: Mayor Harp’s tax hiking history repeats itself [NHRegister]

July 17, 2018

Op-ed as it appeared in the New Haven Register

By Senator Len Fasano

As someone who was born and raised in New Haven and who works here, it’s disturbing to see the city move away from economic progress and toward economic devastation.

Recently, Mayor Toni Harp announced plans to raise the tax rate by 11 percent.

At the same time she’s asking more from residents, she’s handing out raises to her staff and hiring new administrative positions.

This strategy can only spell economic trouble for New Haven, its residents and its job creators.

Sound familiar?

We only have to look back to when Mayor Harp was Senator Harp and chairwoman of the budget writing Appropriations Committee to see history is repeating itself.

Under her leadership, Connecticut was forced to swallow the largest tax increase in state history, coupled with large spending increases.

As a result of that budget’s failure, state residents were hit again with the second-largest tax increase in state history not long after. Instead of helping Connecticut, the negative impact of those tax increases can still be felt today.

Deficits continue and Connecticut remains one of the only states that has not fully recovered from the 2008 recession.

Taxing and spending increases hurt our economy, making it harder for the state to fund core social services and putting more burdens on working and middle class families.

Now, Mayor Harp wants to mimic that one dimensional economic plan in New Haven. It’s a recipe that failed our state, and will fail our city too.

Even without a tax hike, Mayor Harp has admitted New Haven is anticipating a $4 million drop in building permits. Does she think higher taxes will help this situation? Who will build or improve property when they are going to be taxed even more?

Property taxes are very regressive.

Not everyone in New Haven owns property, but the tax increase will cause rents to increase, directly impacting housing costs and small businesses. Local unions and trade unions will be negatively impacted.

For example, those who work in construction will find jobs scarcer in a city where improvements will cause property owners to pay even more taxes.

What’s most frustrating is that politics will likely allow these policies to go unchallenged.

New Haven has been controlled by one party for years. Democrats may express discontent over the mayor’s decisions, but in the end they will fall in line. When one party holds all the power, people lose their voice.

While New Haven’s future seems bleak, I still believe there is hope.

Mayor Harp’s policies may have created deficits we are still battling at the Capitol today, but we are making progress.

With a more Republicans in the state legislature, lawmakers recently came together to pass two bipartisan budgets to start reversing the state’s downward spiral. Taxes were decreased, spending and bonding caps adopted, and core social services were protected.

I hope if we are loud enough, we can see change in New Haven too.

But in a city controlled by one party where the privileged few hold all the power, New Haven is now at a disadvantage, and Mayor Harp is dooming the city to repeat her mistakes.

– Len Fasano