As Connecticut Budget Vote Looms, Some Unions Seek Tax Hikes

By Joseph De Avila Features Dow Jones Newswires

As Connecticut lawmakers make preparations to vote on a budget Thursday to close a two-year $3.5 billion budget deficit, some public-sector unions are making a last-minute lobbying push for higher taxes.

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SEIU District 1199 New England, which represents 7,000 public employees in Connecticut, said establishing a surcharge on investment management service fees, raising taxes on the state's wealthiest residents and increasing rates on dividends and capital gains could produce $893 million in revenue.

Public-sector union officials agreed to $1.57 billion in wage and benefit concessions earlier this year, which brought the state's budget gap down from $5.1 billion to the current mark of $3.5 billion. Union officials said corporations and Connecticut's wealthy residents now need to do their part.

"Everyone needs to pay their fair share and help put Connecticut on the right path," said David Pickus, president of SEIU 1199 New England.

One of the union's proposals for raising taxes would hit executives of Connecticut's large hedge fund industry. Bruce McGuire, president of Connecticut Hedge Fund Association, said increasing taxes to balance the budget would depress business creation and investment.

"It is a fallacy to believe that the top earners will just sit here and take it if Connecticut raises income taxes," Mr. McGuire said.

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SEIU 1199 and Patriotic Millionaires, a group of wealthy people that support higher taxes on the rich, will run television advertisements beginning Wednesday calling for tax increases to close the state's budget hole.

Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the state's largest public-sector union, is also encouraging its members to contact lawmakers "to pass a fair share budget that asks for sacrifice from all."

"Municipal employees have been agreeing to concessions in every city and town," the union wrote in a message to its members on its website. "Why aren't the rich and big corporations being asked to sacrifice?"

Some Democratic lawmakers in the state have shown support for higher taxes, including establishing a surcharge on investment management service fees, also known as carried interest.

But Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, has said this year he doesn't support a carried interest tax, and he didn't want to lead budget negotiations with looking for ways to raise more revenue.

A spokesman for Mr. Malloy didn't return a request for comment.

Mr. Malloy approved two tax income increases, in 2011 and 2015, raising the top rate to 6.99%. Both increases failed to stabilize the state's finances.

Write to Joseph De Avila at joseph.deavila@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 12, 2017 17:18 ET (21:18 GMT)