Cell phone surcharge/tax latest revenue raiser in Dems budget plan

FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2016 file photo shows an iPhone in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Lawmakers are trying to close a gap of $3.5 billion over the next two years… and they’re still not there. Democrat leaders talked to the media after negotiating with the Governor all afternoon and evening over the state budget on Wednesday. It is the longest budget impasse in the state’s history now moving on to day 76.

Here’s where things stand for now on the top tax proposal, but keep in mind, negotiations are still ongoing are subject to change at a moment’s notice.

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Lawmakers are hoping to take a vote on Thursday.

Some Democratic lawmakers are balking at some of the tax hikes that have been suggested, so now there is a new one. Overnight, a new way to tax you emerged in the form of a one dollar per month surcharge/tax on cellphones.

If you have more than one line, like a family with three or four lines, it would be an additional three or four dollars per month. If you’re a small business with a fleet of, for example, 25 cell phones for your employees, it would be an additional 25 dollars per month.

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Desperate to find a way to fund local education in the new budget so cities and towns don’t layoff teachers and have to boost local Property Taxes, the cell phone tax is the latest idea.

House Majority Leader Matt Rittert (D-Hartford), said the idea for a cellphone surcharge came from other states that are already doing it.

We tried to look at other states to be competitive with other states and see things that they’ve done with some of the new technology. There’s a new way of revenue coming into states and local governments, and this is one way that other states do, and so it’s something we’re look at adopting.”

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Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) notes that the hike in the Sales Tax is definitely dead, and word is that the so called Restaurant Tax is also doubtful now; saying “[There are] things in there that people may not like, but there’s also lots of things in there that people will like; because it still funds things that ask an average person, they would say we should be investing in those areas.”

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Following a tour of the renovated Bradley Air Museum today, the Governor did not rule out the cell phone tax idea saying, “Almost all states have a tax on cell phones of some type. Some more some less. There is a reality; if you want to spend money, you have to raise money. If you want to support municipalities to some extent you have to have the money to support them with.”

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But just two hours later, Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz was seen in lengthy discussion with the Governor’s Chief of Staff Brian Durand. A short time later, the Governor’s office sent a text message saying that the Governor has not agreed to the cell phone tax idea.

Democratic leaders met late Wednesday afternoon with the Governor, but the deal is not done.  All are expected to work through the night on this.

Having observed this legislative process for over three decades, I can tell you that it seems doubtful to me that a vote will actually happen on Thursday.  It seems more likely this will spill over into Friday, or even later, because there still appears to be a lot of work to do.

Martin Looney (D) New Haven says there are still some sticking points.

“I don’t want to get into the specifics, because if we get into the specifics then we are highlighting those issues and perhaps giving parties more leverage than they should have because they think their issue is the one that is holding up everything.”

Right now the chamber is empty and most of the negotiations are going on behind closed doors. And they said Republicans aren’t factoring into it because of their plan. House Majority Leader Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) says they are listening to what they’re saying but right now the governor has said he will only sign off on what the Democrats are proposing.

“The Republican budget will never be signed by the governor, ever! So if it ever got through the house and senate, which seems unlikely but if it did, he would veto it. October 1 would happen there member towns would be decimated Innoway they have never seen.”

They are hoping to make a vote within the next 24 hours.