Malloy ‘looked at opportunities’ to provide relief from car tax, but won’t disclose budget plans

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy confirmed Friday that his administration has looked for ways to provide “some level of relief” from municipal property taxes on cars, but he wouldn’t say whether it would be included in the new budget he will propose to legislators Wednesday.

“I have looked at opportunities to bring some level of relief, but they are few and far between,” Malloy said in response to a question from a Capitol reporter.

When pressed about whether he would propose a plan to reduce or end the unpopular car tax, the governor only repeated that opportunities for change “are few and far between under the circumstances that we’re dealing with.”

Those “circumstances” are a projected $1.2 billion shortfall built into the coming fiscal year based on current spending and revenue trends, a gap equal to about 6 percent of annual operating costs.

“Hey listen, I’m not presenting the budget today,” the governor said, before he quickly corrected himself and noted that further details could appear in news reports in the coming days.

“As is tradition, some parts of it get somehow leaked,” he said coyly. “I don’t know how that happens.”

Because the governor’s annual budget typically contains several high-profile initiatives, administrations typically unveil several of them beforehand, rather than have them all compete for limited news coverage on the day the full budget is unveiled.

After learning from a source that the administration had studied options to lessen the municipal property tax burden, The Mirror reported Thursday that past governors faced with difficult budget proposals had tried to work in a high-profile tax cut to cushion other fiscal pain.

Former Gov. M. Jodi Rell offered a plan in 2007 to phase out the car tax across five years.

Rell, whose biennial budget plan sought to raise $1.3 billion in income taxes, would have sent $300 million of that back to communities to offset the lost property tax revenue, and another $545 million to bolster schools.

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