Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lobstermen Might Catch a Tax Break

Here in New York we subsidize, through property tax breaks, people who donate land for conservation, farmers (even gentlemen farmers who do it just for the tax breaks), land owners who engage in certain forestry practices (such as the Aquarion Water Company, which supplies water to lots of Connecticut cities, owns 1,300 acres in my town and pays a fraction of what it would normally pay in property taxes because of its forestry program), and probably others who I can't think of right now.

In Connecticut, the Legislature wants to subsidize through a property tax break, people who fish for lobsters for a living. Here's how the New London Day explained it:

...this spring the legislature cut some of those lobstermen a break, changing state law to require that waterfront residential property used by commercial lobstermen for their work is taxed at a lower rate.

The new law would allow licensed commercial lobstermen to apply to local assessors to have their property classified as “maritime heritage land” — meaning it is valued for tax purposes according to its current use, not the highest value a developer or purely residential owner could expect for the property.

That, supporters say, will help hold down property taxes for the few remaining lobstermen who own waterfront property in the fishing villages of southeastern Connecticut....

While it would cut into revenue to towns, the bill is unlikely to cause much angst, said Lee Vincent, an assistant to the town manager in Groton, since it is limited to full-time commercial lobstermen and narrowly targeted to land and buildings used to support fishing.

A study by the legislature's nonpartisan Office of Legislative Research estimates that just “one or two” lobstermen in each coastal town would qualify for the tax break.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

The tax break for lobstering families has an environmental element to it as well as an economic one.

Harvesting and growing food locally for local to regional consumptions reduces the need to ship food across the nation. This cuts back on emissions to the atmosphere from big diesel truck and helps reduce our energy dependence on other nations.

The Connecticut legislature kept this tax break very narrow despite my urging it extend to clamers and oystermen. Fishermen find it hard to hang on to the narrow edge of the shoreline considering the property values and taxes. Any reduction in overhead helps them. We need to keep our farms and fishermen even if there is a loss to the grand list.

A local supply of fresh foods for the people and albeit small in this case a reduction in green house gases.

I'll try again next session to include the other fisher folks in the tax break.

Terry Backer
Member of the Connecticut General Assembly
Long Island Soundkeeper

7:06 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Excellent move! I fully support it. The problem exists all ver the US coast for the simple reason that to a fisherman, the dock is a cost of doing business, but to a condo developer it is worth millions. Most often the fishermen have to sell out and usually a private marina is constructed for the condo owners.

In my humble opinion, the program should be expanded to cover commercial dockside facilities so as to improve upon the bulkheads and docks, since those are very expensive operations - and quite often those old docks are in a sad state of disrepair. I know of several NE communities that have banded together to (1) protect the commercial fishery and (2) expand public access to LI Sound and (3) create an economic growth area.

Helping our a few fishermen in a few coastal communities is a start. But it takes a vision to create a public/commercial dockside facility of any length and area. At the end of the day, the investment should pay off such as from a mixture of tax incentives, grants, local bonds, and incentives. Imagine a park-like facility with a neatly appointed (and not smelly) commercial area, a public boardwalk, a dinghy dock, and a charter pier, surrounded on the landside by restaurants (with fresh catch of the day!), museums, and other themes. Cultural and historical tourism is truly a wave of the future and our fishermen are a key part of it.

Sam Wells
Former resident of Clinton, CT

11:44 AM  

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