Tuesday’s Special Elections Could Impact Governor Malloy’s Tax Hike Proposal

by LonSeidman

Special Elections will be held in the shaded areas. State House races are in yellow, Senate in green

Shortly after taking office, Gov. Malloy needed additional staff to run his administration. Being the first elected Democrat to the office in 20 years, he looked to those with experience within his own party. This prompted a tidal wave of resignations of 8 of the most prominent legislators from the state house and senate. A 9th legislator – Sen. Tom Gaffey of Meriden – resigned for unrelated reasons stemming from larceny charges where he double billed the state for expenses for himself and his girlfriend.

Special elections will be held this Tuesday to ensure that the 18 towns affected have proper representation. The legislature has been in session for just over a month, although no meaningful legislation has been voted upon except in committees which are currently reviewing bill proposals. Once the new legislators are elected though, they will hit the ground running to analyze Gov. Malloy’s budget proposal. How many seats Republicans pick up could have an impact to whether Malloy gets what he wants, or an alternative plan is approved. Don’t forget that all laws, including the state budget must start in the legislature before the Governor can sign it.

This special election – taking place primarily in central Connecticut and along the shoreline is very unique. Few can remember ever having a campaign in the dead of winter. Candidates are placing signs in snowbanks, many of them many feet high in the worst winter many can remember. There have been special elections before, including one in Naugatuck three years ago where 6 inches of snow fell on election day itself. They are usually called for in single districts where a legislator passes away or resigns. While snow is expected Monday, Tuesday is expected to have good, though chilly weather.

Locally to Wolcott, an election will be held in Cheshire and Meriden to replace Tom Gaffey. This election is particularly important because it is one of three state senate races being held. Democrats currently have an advantage in the senate 23-13 over Republicans. However, if Republicans are able to pick up all three, they will be expected to have more influence on the budget with a 20-16 makeup. Some Democrats are expected to cross party lines on some pivotal votes dealing with taxes and employee layoffs if they are necessary.

To examine what’s at stake, we should review Gov. Malloy’s taxation proposals.

First, spending will increase from last year by 1.8% for 2011-2012 and 2.4% for 2012-2013 (about $900 million)

Among his proposals are the taxes we pay everyday. They include:

– Raising the income tax from 5% to 5.5% for the average family
– Raising the sales tax from 6% to 6.25%
Raising the gas tax by 3 cents and diesel by 4 cents
– raising all alcohol taxes– raising cigarette tax by 40 cents/pack
– eliminate the $500 property tax credit
eliminate numerous sales tax exemptions, including: clothing under $50, pet grooming, towing services, shoes, hair cuts, yoga, manicures, and car washes
– Start a rental car tax -2%
– Increase hotel tax to 14%
– Services will be taxed at PRE-COUPON rates
– There will be no more sales tax free week in August

To top off these taxes, some candidates, including Democrat Tom Bruenn have been quoted as saying “the sky is not falling”. During a recent debate in Meriden against Republican Len Suzio, Bruenn further touted Malloy’s proposal, although “I would have gone further” with Malloy’s ‘progressive’ tax proposals. If elected, Suzio vowed “send a clear message to Hartford that we cannot afford any more. Enough is enough. I will not increase spending. We have been taxed to death already.”

Both of those candidates are vying to replace disgraced Senator Gaffey in the 13th Senatorial District which covers Cheshire, Meriden, Middlefield and Middletown. This district is traditionally Democratic, although Suzio won Cheshire in a match against Gaffey in November and his campaign notes an surge of registered Democrats endorsing him in the past week. Negative press had hampered this campaign in January when the Meriden Record Journal published a story blaming Suzio over ‘push poll’ which the Meriden Patch found was fabricated. No retraction was ever published by the Record Journal. Bruenn, to his credit, asserted doubts about the existence of the poll as well even though state Democratic Chairwoman Nancy Dinardo demanded apologies from Suzio over the non-existent tool to color a race.

In New Britain, similar articles were printed when a Democratic Councilor requested a review of how city contracts were awarded. That city is having a special election between current Republican Mayor Tim Stewart and former State Represenative Teresa Gerratana. Again, Dinardo intervened by attacking Stewart even though the paper later noted that the Mayor has no role in awarding such contracts and the councilor acknowledged the same.

Both the New Britain and Meriden districts lean Democrat, however special elections historically have very low turnouts, giving Republicans a unique opportunity. Ballots will only have bubbles for the two candidates instead of President or Governor to overshadow them. And the open question will be how angry are voters over the new Governor’s tax proposals.

To become involved with these campaigns, click below for links to the candidates’ headquarters and websites. An attached map shows where races are taking place.

Video, news on 13th Senate Candidates: http://www.myrecordjournal.com/meriden/specialelection2011/
– this race covers Cheshire, Meriden, Middletown, and Middlefield
Republican Party candidates: http://www.ctgop.org/candidates/Democratic Party candidates: http://www.ctdems.org/index.php

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