CT lawmakers approve bill that could impact water bills, car taxes

The legislation changes how vehicles' value is assessed, and also paves the way for a regional water authority to potentially take over Bridgeport-based Aquarion Water Company.

John Craven

Jun 27, 2024, 9:10 PM

Updated 15 days ago

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Connecticut lawmakers approved a bill that could impact your car taxes and your water bill during a special session on Thursday.
The legislation changes how vehicles' value is assessed, and also paves the way for a regional water authority to potentially take over Bridgeport-based Aquarion Water Company.
AQUARION SALE
Hundreds of thousands of homes get their water from Aquarion, especially in Fairfield County. If the utility wants to raise your rates, state regulators have to approve it. But lawmakers gave emergency approval to a controversial bill that could change that.
The legislation lets the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority in New Haven bid on purchasing Aquarion. If the sale goes through, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) could no longer review rate increases, since RWA is a quasi-public agency.
"We have before us a piece of legislation that could have billions of dollars of effect per year on Connecticut residents – on people paying their water bills," said state Sen. Ryan Fazio (R-Greenwich), the top Republican on the Legislature's Energy and Technology Committee.
RWA promised there would still be checks-and-balances. To protect customers, the utility's governing board would be expanded to include members living in Aquarion's service territory.
"We have an application that we submit to the board of directors," said Larry Bingaman, the authority's CEO. "That is submitted to a policy board. They, in turn, have hearings."
The purchase is far from a done deal. Connecticut Water Company – which is private and regulated – is also interested in Aquarion. Plus, PURA must approve any purchase agreement.
"Prior to PURA making a final ruling, legislators can have hearings. They could introduce bills," said House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford). "And if there's real concerns about this transaction, then we said to them we would look at subsequent amendments or language to see how it goes."
CAR TAX CHANGES
Lawmakers also approved changes to the car tax.
All vehicles' assessment value will now be based on the original Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), including a statewide standard of how a car depreciates over time. It's an attempt to make your car tax bill more predictable, after many car owners saw dramatic increases during the pandemic-era supply chain crisis.
The immediate impact on most car owners is unclear.
"We don't know whether or not it raises taxes or lowers them," said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the Connecticut House GOP leader. "What we do know is, it's sort of moving food around the plate."
Cities and towns asked for the change.
"It's diminimous," Ritter said. "It affects a handful of vehicles and makes that might go up a little bit, but it's very, very small."
The new law also avoids a major car tax increase on businesses. The legislation ensures that commercial fleets will still be taxed as motor vehicles (whose tax rate is capped at 32 mills), rather than personal property.


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