Attorney General: Hon. James F. Sullivan, Department of Transportation, 1997-007 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

March 31, 1997

Hon. James F. Sullivan
Department of Transportation
2800 Berlin Turnpike
Newington, CT 06131-7546

Dear Commissioner Sullivan:

This in response to a request for an opinion regarding the Department of Transportation's ("Department") responsibility under the aircraft registration program, Conn. Gen. Stat. 13b-39a et seq. In particular, you asked if the requisite statutory payments to municipalities set forth in Section 13b-39h are computed upon the municipal grand lists of October 1, 1992 or on the actual number of 1992 grand list aircraft based or primarily used within the particular municipality on the respective April first payment dates. In our opinion, payments are to be computed based on the municipal grand list as of October 1, 1992 in accordance with a descending percentage formula.

Connecticut General Statutes 13b-39h provides as provides as follows:

Payments shall be made from the special transportation fund by the department of transportation to municipalities based on aircraft registered in such municipalities as of the October 1, 1992 grand list in a percentage of the total tax that the municipality would have collected in personal property tax pursuant to section 12-71, assuming such aircraft were subject to assessment (1) on April 1, 1994, a payment in an amount of one hundred per cent of such total amount less such registration fee; (2) on April 1, 1995, a payment in an amount of one hundred per cent of such total amount less such registration fee; (3) on April 1, 1996, a payment in an amount of ninety per cent of such total amount; (4) on April 1, 1997, a payment in an amount of seventy per cent of such total amount; (5) on April 1, 1998, a payment in an amount of fifty per cent of such total amount; (6) on April 1, 1999, a payment in an amount of thirty per cent of such total amount; and (7) on April 1, 2000, a payment in an amount of ten per cent of such total amount. In no event shall the total of the registration fees and the payments from the department pursuant to this section exceed one hundred per cent of the total tax the municipality would have collected in personal property tax pursuant to said section 12-71 assuming such aircraft was subject to assessment.

The answer to your inquiry begins with the wording of the statute. River Dock and Pile, Inc. v. O.& G. Industries.- Inc. 219 Conn. 787, 805 (1991). Section 3b-39h, in addition to mandating payments to certain municipalities, provides for the arithmetical computation and timing for the same. "Payments shall be made ... based on aircraft registered ... as of the October 1, 1992 grand list ... in a percentage of the total tax... that the municipality would have collected in personal property tax... (1) on April 1, 1994 a payment in an amount of one hundred per cent of such total amount less such registration fee; ... (7) on April 1, 2000, a payment in an amount of ten per cent of such total amount."

The words of a statute are to be construed with common sense. Gentry v. Norwalk, 196 Conn. 596,606 (1985). In addition, a statute should be interpreted in such a way that makes the statute effective and workable, rather than that which leads to a difficult and bizarre result. State v. Rodgers, 198 Conn. 53,61 (1985).

The General Assembly determined that the municipal "total tax" on the 1992 grand list for aircraft is the multiplicand, and the multiplier is the descending percentage rate applied on each of the successive April first years. Thus, the "total tax" base was fixed and established without reference to additions or deletions in the actual number of aircraft based in a municipality on the April first date of the cited years.

This interpretation of 13b-39h is further supported by an examination of the statute's legislative history. "When the language of a statute is unclear, we may ascertain the intent of the legislature by looking beyond the language to the statute's legislative history and the purpose that the statute was intended to serve." Weinberg v. ARA Vending Co., 223 Conn. 336,341 (1992).

Section 13b-39h was enacted as part of Public Act 93-433. In reviewing the pertinent legislative history of Public Act 93-433, it is clear that the intention was to hold the municipalities harmless to some degree from any tax loss based upon the 1992 grand list values and the "total tax" computed on such list.

REP. MULREADY:

The second major part of the bill has to do with exemptions for aircraft, essentially changing the aircraft property tax system from a property tax system to a system of registration and fees... Municipalities would keep the fees and they would also be held harmless for any losses in the property tax fully held harmless for the first two years of the program and then that hold harmless provision would decline to 90 percent in year three, 70 percent in year four, 50 percent in year five, 30 percent in year six and ten percent in year seven.

H-686; Connecticut General Assembly, House Proceedings 1993;

Vol. 36, Part 37, pp. 13,075-13,403, pp. 13,350-13,351.

In conclusion, the total tax based on the aircraft registered and on the municipal grand list of October 1, 1992 is the base upon which the Department's payments from the Special Transportation Fund are to be made pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 13b-39h.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Arnold K. Shimelman
Assistant Attorney General


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