Bush Visit At Taxpayer Expense Raises Big Bucks For Murphy Challenger

President Bush’s visit to Connecticut and the 5th Congressional District on Friday raised as much as $700K, according to press reports . Much of the money is supposed to benefit the presumptive opponent of first-term U.S. Rep Chris Murphy, State Senator David Cappiello.

Bush used a Hartford speech on malaria-fighting efforts to underwrite an obviously partisan journey to the Kent home of Nixon administration Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. Invitees came at $1,000 per person and got a photo with the President for $10,000.

In a bizarre twist to the trip shared with a group of 5th CD Democrats this weekend, the White House called Cong. Murphy’s office last Tuesday to invite him to accompany the President on Air Force One on his way to the Northwest Hills to shake the GOP money tree for Murphy’s opponent. No word yet on whether Murphy’s office staff has stopped laughing yet. New England’s only GOP member of Congress, Chris Shays, took the free ride.

While Cappiello needed the kind of cash that a sitting President could bring him, many Democrats and unaffiliated voters will be asking just what part of Bush’s policies does Cappiello plan to run on. There was no evidence that Cappiello engaged in any photo ops with Bush. Nary a word on the Cappiello website.

Chances are the Republican challenger will do his best to ignore George Bush completely the rest of the way. It appears his strategy is to run a stealth campaign of quietly backing the Bush agenda and painting himself a Nancy Johnson moderate. To know the real David Cappiello, however, all voters will have to do his follow the money trail back to the White House. The largess given to Cappiello is the best tip off yet of what he stands for and how he will vote: for wasteful war without security, for deficits, for the continuing economic slide of working and middle income people as the rich guys with the long driveways who live next to Henry Kissinger get a tax break.

[Photo credit: http://news.bbc.co.uk]

Revaluation Makes Tax Increase Inevitable According to the Mayor

A $219.5 million municipal budget was submitted to the City Council last week that will bring a tax increase to residential owners because of state-mandated revaluation, Mayor Timothy Stewart and most city officials say.

According to published reports a tax rate of 34.98 ($34.98 per $1,000 valuation) will take effect July 1 if the budget is adopted. While the tax rate is dropping, new property assessments from a recently completed revaluation will mean higher bills for homeowners and owners of multi-family units.

As with all property revaluations, burdens on small property owners and tenants increase because of the regressive nature of the property tax and Connecticut’s over reliance on it to pay for essential services and schools. Residential owners in New Britain bear the brunt of higher tax bills while industrial properties will decrease under the current system.

Mayor Stewart, who rode to victory over incumbent Lucian Pawlak five years ago because of 40% re-assessment hikes, says now there is little that can be done to avert an increase in property bills because of revaluation. The budget proposal he submitted is essentially a level funding one with no layoffs and a slight increase in the education budget.

Between now and June the municipal budget will get more scrutiny from the City Council whose members will be seeking ways to extract more savings without cutting services. A key point of the debate will be whether the $118 million allocated for the school district will remain the same or be increased to deal with serious resource shortfalls cited in recent outside reports about the high school’s accreditation, student achievement and morale in the school district.

Also to be determined is whether a local property tax credit will be extended to seniors and individuals on fixed incomes — a form of relief adopted by the Council and agreed to by the Mayor last fall. This issue, which would extend an existing state credit program for seniors with local funding, has been resisted by Stewart. The impact of revaluation, however, will increase pressure to provide the senior tax credit if not every year at least this year.