Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/26

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the entire taxable property of the State. In 1865 it was about seven and one half per cent; in 1875 a little over five per cent, and in 1885 about three and three quarters per cent; and yet during the period covered by these statistics it is probable that the amount of State, railroad, municipal, and farm-mortgage bonds owned by the citizens of Connecticut increased to an extent equal to at least one half the valuation of all the other property in the State returned and made subject to taxation. In 1855 the inhabitants of eighty-one towns of the State did not own a single mortgage bond. Not a bond was returned as owned in the rich city of Meriden. The twenty thousand inhabitants of the thriving city of Waterbury by their united efforts managed to scrape together only seven hundred and fifty dollars in bonds. So far as cash is concerned, there was never a community since mankind emerged from a state of barter that got along with so little. In 1889, however, the Legislature of Connecticut modified her former statutes, and provided that the owners of all notes and bonds who would register them with the State Treasurer, and agree to pay in advance a tax of one fifth of one per cent per annum for a period of five years, should be exempted from all further State or local taxation on the same. Note now the results. The law in question went into operation on the 1st of August, 1889, and between that date and the 1st of January succeeding, something over $30,000,000 of bonds and notes were registered under the modified assessment,[1] of which the treasurer in his report to the Legislature says, "Probably at least three fourths have never paid any taxes whatsoever." Here, then, within five months was uncovered to the taxing power a quantity of what the law makes property in excess of $22,000,000, and returns are still being received in large volume. The conclusion, therefore, seems to be that there is a good deal of conscience in the highly moral State of Connecticut which can be induced to cheat an forswear on a two-per-cent tax, that can not be bribed on a tax of one fifth of one per cent; or that a tax of from one to two per cent on bonds and notes in Connecticut is sufficient to nearly tax out of existence all conscientious scruples of its people in respect to the violation of law and the perpetration of fraud in respect to matters of taxation.[2]

  1. For succeeding years the amounts registered with the State Treasurer were returned as follows: 1890, $33,654,335; 1891, $24,792,509; 1892, $39,473,988; 1893, $12,418,673; 1894, $20,507,396; 1895, $18,533,543; 1896, $21,159,161. Why the large difference in the receipts of the above years occurred has not been satisfactorily accounted for by the State officials.
  2. In 1897 the Legislature of Connecticut, not satisfied with the unexpected large amount of notes and bonds returned for taxation at the rate of one fifth of one per centum per annum when voluntarily paid in advance, doubled the rate of tax to two fifths of one per cent, or four mills on the dollar. What will be the result of this fiscal policy is yet to be determined; but it is to be regretted that the original experiment could not have been longer continued.