Assuming it can get to it in time, the state Senate is ready to turn House Speaker Brendan Sharkey’s property tax reform bill into a study meaning that practically speaking, Sharkey’s attempt to change the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) system will fail, at least for now. Also to be studied is a PILOT reform plan backed by Senate Majority Leader Marty Looney (D-New Haven). Looney’s plan would award a higher percentage of available PILOT funds to cities and towns that have more tax-exempt properties than others.
As The Hanging Shad has expressed before, Looney’s plan is much more workable and likely an easier sell to other lawmakers. Under his plan, cities such as Looney’s New Haven that has Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital and Hartford with so much state-owned property, would get a higher percentage of PILOT funds (which are always hard to come by) than other municipalities that have little tax-exempt property.
Sharkey’s plan would have property purchased by a tax-exempt entity remain on the tax rolls. That way cities and towns wouldn’t lose the property tax revenue. The speaker’s plan is said to be a tough sell, particularly in the Senate. Very often turning a bill into a study is a way to avoid killing the idea altogether but not having it become law.
Internal political jousting has followed Sharkey’s bill since its beginning. It was reported that there was a deal between Sharkey and Senate President Don Williams in which the House would give final approval to Williams’ early childhood bill and the Senate would push Sharkey’s PILOT reform bill. Williams has said all along there was no such arrangement was made.
Earlier in the session, Sharkey took highly unusual action on a bill favored by Williams and approved by the Senate. Less than 24 hours after that approval, the House suspended its rules to take up the Williams-backed bill and then soundly defeated it—a clear rebuke to Williams.
The bill would have made illegal the sale of genetically modified grass seed. Neither Sharkey nor Williams wants to discuss the reason for the extremely uncommon move in the House (the Democratic leadership of the two chambers does not ordinarily bring out a bill unless they are certain it will pass. The Shad has a theory as to why it happened.
With the PILOT reform ideas becoming studies, they are not completely dead—Looney’s is very much alive—but they won’t become law this year.