Business groups opposed state-run IRAs for private firms


HARTFORD — The Senate and House majority leaders are pushing legislation that would create a state-run retirement program for private-sector employees over the opposition of insurers and private investment advisers.

On March 11 Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney of New Haven and House Majority Leader Joseph Aresimowicz of Berlin urged passage of legislation that would make Connecticut the second state after California to offer a state retirement trust program.

The two Democratic leaders acknowledged that California has yet to resolve key questions about its program, including whether it would enjoy the same tax advantages to savers as 401(k) or individual retirement accounts.

The goal is to offer a low-cost retirement savings program that could be offered as a payroll deduction plan to Connecticut workers who lack access to retirement programs through their jobs.

“One of the things we’ve seen, unless there are payroll deduction plans offered, the level of participation is very low,” Looney said. “That’s why I think a payroll deduction component of this is critical.”

Aresimowicz said the average Social Security benefit in Connecticut is about $15,000. Too many residents have no retirement plan other than Social Security, a program created in 1935, when the average life expectancy was 62.

“Our senior population is going to be doubling within the next 10 years, and we’re going to continue to have to provide services for these folks,” he said.

AARP says more than 600,000 workers in Connecticut have no access to a retirement plan. For those 65 and older, Social Security accounts for 87 percent of total income for low-income households and 70 percent of middle-income households.

Looney and Aresimowicz could not precisely predict what the program would cost the state. The goal is a program the state could run for administrative fees of no more than 1 percent.

“What we’re saying is let the state of Connecticut provide this product,” Aresimowicz said.

Looney said the program would be self-sustaining and low-risk with a moderate rate of return likely tied to the 30-year Treasury bond rate.

Treasurer Denise Nappier and Comptroller Kevin Lembo have endorsed the concept, but the bill is opposed by the Middlesex and Windham chambers of commerce, the Insurance Association of Connecticut and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

The legislation would put the state in competition with private savings plans, and businesses say that administering a payroll deduction system would impose a cost on them.

“Connecticut already places many mandates on its businesses,” Charles Firlotte, president of the Aquarion Water Co., said in testimony submitted to the Labor and Public Employees Committee.



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MILFORD — At the 59th annual meeting of the Milford Chamber of Commerce held January 29 at Grassy Hill Country Club, the business group presented “Awards of Distinction” to 13 local individuals and organizations. Among them: Businessperson of the Year — John Walsh of Total Mortgage Services, LLC; Corporate Award — Michael Zahornacky of Excello Tool Engineering & Mftg. Co.; Lifetime Achievement Award — Jody Culmone of Milford Consortium for Child Care Initiatives Inc.; and Small-Business Person of the Year — Gus & Julia Grigoriadis of Pop’s Family Restaurant. Some 200 people attended the event.

 HARTFORD — The office of Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has launched an online Business Startup Tool designed to help entrepreneurs more quickly register new companies and access state and federal agencies needed for licensing, labor and tax regulations. The online Business Startup Tool also connects business owners with resources to help with business planning and financing.


The online business startup tool provides direct links to the state Departments of Consumer Protection, Energy and Environmental Protection, Labor, Revenue Services, and the Connecticut Licensing Information Center.  The tool also connects entrepreneurs to the federal Small Business Administration, Internal Revenue Service and the federal Department of Commerce Patent & Trademark Office. In addition to regulatory agencies, the online business startup tool also provides links to information on public and private sector business financing as well as business planning assistance.


The tool can be accessed online through the Secretary of the State website,

 HARTFORD — As the state Lottery gears up to implement Keno gambling in bars and restaurants throughout the state, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told reporters that he is open to repealing the law passed last year that allows for its rollout.

Keno has not yet opened outside the state's two casinos, but the state budget does rely on $27 million in revenue from Keno in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

"Keno wasn't my idea. It wasn't in my budget [proposed last year]. It does raise revenue. Some people want it. Some people don't want it. You know, the legislature's got a job to do and this was not done by me. So, we'll do whatever we are asked to do and affect it appropriately," the Democratic governor told reporters Wednesday.

State Sen. Andrea L. Stillman (D-20) of Waterford, a strong opponent of gambling, has proposed a bill that would repeal Keno.

Malloy said that while it is ultimately up to the legislature to sort out, "I will point out that Keno is ubiquitous and is frequently run by lottery organizations in other states, but you know that's a political decision. But I am not the person that proposed Keno."

Malloy did sign the budget last spring that included revenue from the Keno games and the budget he proposed to the legislature last week does depend on $27 million in revenue from the games for the 2014-15 fiscal year.



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 A new report by the Office of Revenue Analysis of the government of the District of Columbia places Bridgeport No. 1 for the highest tax rate in the country when combining property, sales, auto and income taxes. According to the study, a hypothetical Park City family of three earning $75,000 paid $16,333 in taxes — or nearly 22 percent of its income — in 2012. (The total does not include federal taxes.)

After Bridgeport, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Columbus, Providence, Portland, Maine, Louisville, Detroit and Wilmington, Del. round out the top ten.

The Park City’s mill rate, 41.85, is among the highest in Connecticut. City officials have urged state legislative leaders to delay state-mandated revaluation of property for two more years in hopes that an economic turnaround will stabilize city finances. City officials fear if revaluation is not postponed, the mill rate will skyrocket into the 60s, sending property, auto and business taxes through the roof.

Bridgeport’s onerous tax burden afflicts taxpayers across the income spectrum. A family with an annual household income of just $25,000 would pay $4,001 in taxes (fourth-highest in the nation), according to the study, while taxes on an annual household income of $150,000 would be a tops-in-the-nation $33,208.

The study compared cities with the highest populations in their respective states. Cheyenne, Wy. had the lowest tax rate in the country, according to the study.

 In a ranking compiled last year by the National Journal, senior U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal tied with Tom Udall (D-N.M.) atop the list of the Senate's most liberal members, a list that includes Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Al Franken of Minnesota and Patty Murray of Washington. (Junior Sen. Christopher Murphy had been in the Senate only a month when the publication released its study, so he was not ranked.)

Notwithstanding a handful of contrarian votes, Blumenthal and Murphy almost always voted with their party. The analysis of their 2013 votes shows Blumenthal voting with fellow Democrats and the Democratic leadership 99 percent of the time, and that Murphy was loyal to his party in 98 percent of his votes. The average in the Senate, whose members typically show more independence than lawmakers in the House, was 90 percent.