June 3, 2017

BLUE STATE BLUES: Connecticut’s Tax Comeuppance – With the rich tapped out, the state may resort to Puerto Rico bonds.

Last month the state Office of Fiscal Analysis reduced its two-year revenue forecast by $1.46 billion. Since January the agency has downgraded income-tax revenue for 2017 and 2018 by $1.1 billion (6%). Sales- and corporate-tax revenue are projected to fall by $385 million (9%) and $67 million (7%), respectively, this year. Pension contributions, which have doubled since 2010, will increase by a third over the next two years. The result: a $5.1 billion deficit and three recent credit downgrades.

According to the fiscal analyst, income-tax collections declined this year for the first time since the recession due to lower earnings at the top. Many wealthy residents decamped for lower-tax states after Mr. Malloy and his Republican predecessor Jodi Rell raised the top individual rate on more than $500,000 of income to 6.99% from 5%. In the past five years 27,400 Connecticut residents, including Ms. Rell, have moved to no-income-tax Florida, and seven of the state’s eight counties have lost population since 2010. Population flight has depressed economic growth—Connecticut’s real GDP has shrunk by 0.1% since 2010—as well as home values and sales-tax revenues.

The state treasurer has advocated “credit bonds” securitized by income-tax revenues to reduce the state’s borrowing costs. Investors beware: Puerto Rico tried something similar with its sales tax, and bondholders might not get back a penny.

They’ve run out of other people’s money — unexpectedly.