The Hartford Courant
This is indeed “huge” news, to quote Connecticut congressman John Larson: The IRS will give a big tax break to homeowners with crumbling foundations. This couldn’t have happened without the dogged determination of U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, whose eastern Connecticut district has been hardest hit by the plague.
It’s not often that liberal congressmen from this blue state praise Republican President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But the praise has been earned in this case. Congressmen Courtney and Larson, both Democrats, were generous with their compliments at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford Wednesday. “In terms of government response, this was incredible,” Mr. Larson said. Will wonders never cease?
The tax break will mean that homeowners who have some proof that the mineral pyrrhotite is destroying their basement walls can deduct much of the unreimbursed cost of repairs from their federal taxes. Those costs can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said that as many as 34,130 homes could be at risk of pyrrhotite damage. The concrete used in damaged foundations appears to have come from a local quarry that was rich in the mineral that, the state has only recently discovered, causes concrete to swell, crack and ultimately fail.
Combined with a new state fund that provide grants to stricken homeowner, the federal tax relief will give hope to many people who fear losing all they’ve put into what’s usually a family’s most valuable asset, its home.
Most families have gotten no breaks up till now. Insurance companies are denying claims, saying home policies cover only sudden collapses, not slow-motion ones. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has also turned its back on Connecticut, saying deteriorating foundations “are man-made events and do not constitute a natural catastrophe.”
Why would the Trump administration lend a hand when others won’t? And in such a blue state as Connecticut? And “with what is the speed of light for government,” as Mr. Larson put it?
Well, whose heart wouldn’t soften at the plight of homeowners whose homes have become almost worthless and possibly unsafe through no fault of their own?
Some surmise that the Connecticut connections of Washington officials played a part in their compassion. Mr. Mnuchin has a house in Washington, Conn., as congressman Courtney pointed out Wednesday. Former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, also instrumental to the tax break, was once an aide to the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Abe Ribicoff of Connecticut.
Key, though, were National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who championed Connecticut’s cause even though she hails from Philadelphia, and Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy David Kautter, also from Pennsylvania. The tax break “wasn’t without a fight,” Mr. Courtney said.
He makes the great point that it took “old-fashioned” citizen organizing, through the hardworking Connecticut Coalition Against Crumbling Basements, to get the IRS’s help — and that didn’t require paying lobbyists or raising palm-greasing money through a political action committee. Of course, getting this relief also took the indefatigable work of Mr. Courtney, who was ably aided by his fellow congressmen and women.
“It’s sort of a holiday miracle for a lot of people,” said Brenda Draghi, an Ellington attorney who represents a lot of families with crumbling foundations. It’s enough to restore a little faith in government.
http://www.courant.com/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-holiday-miracle-trump-helps-ct-20171123-story.htmlNovember 23rd, 2017