When Gov. Thomas Meskill took office in January 1971, Connecticut found itself in the midst of a financial crisis. In the years leading up to Meskill’s election, the state managed to accumulate a debt of over a quarter of a billion dollars. Throughout the spring of 1971, legislators struggled to develop a plan for eliminating the deficit.
Meskill wanted the budget balanced within 36 months. To that end, he proposed raising the state’s sales tax from 5 to 7.5 percent. The only other option, many felt, was to institute a tax on income. During this time, Connecticut residents had the highest per-capital income in the country and several legislators saw an income tax as a quick and easy solution to raising the necessary funds. As the spring legislation session began coming to a close, however, there remained no agreement on how best to address the financial crisis.