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A 'Nanny-State' Act?

Report By Lobbying Group For Municipalities Slams Rell's Property Tax Cap Plan

By CHRISTOPHER KEATING, Capitol Bureau Chief

December 22, 2007

The state's leading lobbyist for cities and towns is ripping Gov. M. Jodi Rell's revived plan to place a state-mandated cap on property taxes as "wrong for Connecticut."

In strong language, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities says Rell's proposal is "a cure worse than the disease" that might look good at first but ultimately is not real property tax reform.

"A state-imposed cap would be the ultimate 'nanny-state' act," CCM says in an eight-page report with 21 footnotes. "It would tell local taxpayers that the state knows better than they how much their town should tax and spend."

CCM was reacting to Rell's statements in an interview this week that she will revive an idea that was rejected six months ago by the Democratic-controlled legislature. Rell's plan last year would have required cities and towns to limit property tax increases annually to no more than 3 percent, but her spokesman, Christopher Cooper, said Rell will be flexible this year on various aspects of the plan. The final proposal will not be unveiled until after the state's Property Tax Cap Commission completes its report next month.

Cooper rejected the criticisms, saying it is CCM that is displaying a "nanny-state" attitude.

"The CCM report is telling property owners that they know better than what the homeowners know," Cooper said Friday. "The mayors want simple cash payouts that they can spend. The governor wants the cash in taxpayers' wallets."

CCM's mantra is "give us more money," Cooper said. "They don't represent local taxpayers. They represent the local government bureaucracy."

Gian-Carl Casa, one of CCM's chief lobbyists at the state Capitol, said the group had been working extensively on its own eight-page report in anticipation of the recommendations by the Property Tax Cap Commission. Insiders are unclear what the commission's report might say because it is co-chaired by two leaders who have sharply different views on the tax cap. They are Michael Cicchetti, Rell's deputy budget director who supports the cap, and Rep. Cameron Staples, a New Haven Democrat who opposes the cap.

"It seems the committee has been fairly split down the middle," Casa said Friday.

The membership of CCM, which represents 144 of the state's 169 cities and towns, is "overwhelmingly" against the caps, Casa said.

"I haven't found one yet who supports it," he said.

Reflecting that notion, the report's summary states, "It is an easy non-solution to property tax pressures."

CCM is heavily involved in seeking money for cities and towns every year at the Capitol, but the latest report is more frank than usual.

"It lays out in a very blunt way the concerns we have," Casa said. "I would say it's bluntly worded."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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