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State Senate approves car tax changes and allows regional water authority to bid

A New Haven-based water authority could make a bid to buy Aquarion Water Company from Eversource.  

The State Senate Wednesday approved a proposal that would let the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority make a bid to buy Aquarion.  

Democrats said the change is needed to ensure Connecticut-based water companies can bid on Aquarion, which Eversource is expected to put up for sale as early as July.  

“We want to make sure that Connecticut based competitors have a chance to bid on this,” Sen. Martin Looney (D, President Pro Tempore), expressing concern that Eversource might sell the utility to a hedge fund or international company.  

The only other private water company in Connecticut is the Connecticut Water Company.  

The bill, which garnered a 20-9 party-line vote, now heads to the House of Representatives Thursday. 

RWA needs legislative approval because Aquarion is not within the quasi-public agency’s service area.  

The RWA is also not regulated by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, though. Republicans have concerns about letting the company bid on Aquarion and say the proposal should have gone to a public hearing.  

Their main concern is that the RWA doesn’t need state approval to raise its water rates. RWA, which raked in $144 million in revenue 2023, would likely need to take on debt to purchase Aquarion. 

Eversource purchased the company for $1.67 billion in 2017.  

“We’re talking about something that could increase water rates for people across the state,” Sen. Stephen Harding, (R, Minority Leader), said.  

RWA President and CEO Larry Bingaman said the utility does have a transparent process for rate increases, including a vote by a board of directors that has community representatives.  

“It’s a very transparent process that actually mirrors what goes on at PURA,” Bingaman said.  

The proposed change was included in a broad bill that also altered some changes that will happen to the car tax on July 1.  

The bill would stipulate that commercial vehicles be taxed as motor vehicles, not a business’s personal property.  

Companies say a change could cost millions because the state caps the motor vehicle tax at less than 33 mills but has no limit on other local taxes.  

The state also altered a depreciation schedule on vehicles after municipalities warned of potential losses.  

Republicans warned the change, which will slow down appreciation, amounts to a tax increase.  

But Democrats said this only impacts how a town can value cars and has no impact on mill rates set by local leaders.  

Read More: State Senate approves car tax changes and allows regional water authority to bid

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