Opinion By: Faith Ham
Nearly three-quarters of voters agree the state’s wealthiest residents – people who comprise less than one percent of all income tax filers but pay 31 percent of collected taxes – still don’t pay their “fair share,” according to a recent survey. Given Connecticut’s tax structure, one must ask, what is fair?
In the survey, 71% of respondents supported boosting income tax rates on those earning more than $1 million per year. Especially newsworthy was that more than two-thirds of Independents and over half of Republicans agreed with the 85% of Democrats who favored higher taxes on the rich. When asked if billionaires should be taxed at higher rates, all respondents agreed overwhelmingly: 95 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Independents, and 64 percent of Republicans.
Perhaps these numbers make more sense in the context of who funded the research. The poll was commissioned by Recovery for All CT, a coalition of left-leaning organizations in the state, including Common Cause, NARAL, CEA and SEBAC, who benefit financially from state coffers. Until this survey, the coalition’s only output was a couple of white papers. The poll itself was conducted by TargetSmart, described by Mother Jones magazine as “one of the most important outfits” for Democrats nationally.
The data itself is also questionable. Answered online by 80 percent of the 500 voters selected from the pollster’s “enhanced voter file,” the survey had a margin of error of 4/4.5 percent. Credible polls have a margin of error of between 1-3 percent points. The lower the margin, the more reliable poll is in accurately measuring public opinion.
The closest any news report came to revealing these details was to describe Recovery CT as “progressive.” Yet, readers are expected to accept that 400 curated respondents accurately reflect the views of all Connecticut voters.
This narrative is especially frustrating considering the several thousand people who gathered outside the State House two years ago to protest the repeal of the vaccine religious exemption. These demonstrators represented all demographics, yet columnists and critics labeled them a small fringe group, not reflective of the will of the people. It’s hard to reconcile these narratives along anything but ideological lines.
The Recovery for All survey coincided with another story that examined the thinking behind, and implementation of, tax cuts recently proposed by Governor Ned Lamont. In light of these cuts, it’s important that the public receive accurate information about how Connecticut’s tax system works.
Connecticut’s tax system is structured in seven tiers, starting at a 3 percent tax on low-income earners and progressing to 6.99 percent on the wealthiest taxpayers. According to data from the state Office of Policy and Management (OPM), 0.7 percent of all filers in 2020 reported incomes above $1 million but accounted for 30.9 percent of all income tax receipts. In fact, OPM says filers in the top three brackets – incomes of $150,000 and over, paid 69.1 percent of all taxes. On the flip side, more than 75 percent of all tax filers – about 1.3 million people – paid less than 20 percent of all taxes in 2020.
With this top-heavy collection already in place, low earners became an easy target for tax cuts. In the name of equity, the governor has proposed reducing taxes for nearly 1.1 million middle and low-income residents. In reality, the $500 million decrease in state revenue means just $600 in annual savings for joint filers and increased pressure on those left footing the bill.
As Secretary of OPM Jeffrey Beckham was quoted as saying, “The bulk of our tax is paid by more affluent people. (The state tax code) is steeply progressive. The fact that we can affect so many people and it only costs $400 million to the general fund shows you how relatively little we rely on them for the $10 billion that the personal income tax raises.”
If the goal is a “fair share,” Connecticut is taking the wrong tack. Wealth begins in the human mind with an idea. It blossoms with opportunity. The best way to equalize effective tax rates is to cultivate educational and employment opportunities to increase earnings in all households and, thereby, reduce tax burdens relative to income. No one ever gets rich through redistribution
Faith Ham lives in Cheshire Connecticut.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of Connecticut Inside Investigator.
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