HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The 2022 legislative session is set to begin in two weeks. What policy issues will lawmakers focus on?

News 8’s Chief Political Correspondent Jodi Latina sat down with the four caucus leaders for some insights.
Children’s mental health, long-term alternative education help and a tax cut package are all on the table this legislative session.

“There is a windfall going to the state of Connecticut and we have an obligation to return that to the taxpayers,” said State Senator and Republican Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly.

There is a $3.5 billion surplus. The most in state history. All four leaders agree money should be going back to the people.

Expect a tax cut package that could include property tax cuts, sales tax and meals tax cuts, and an extension of the child tax credit.

“At least for a year or two until Congress can get their act together and get that done within the 12 months or so. But I’d like to use some of our surpluses to provide relief to folks,” added House Speaker Matt Ritter.

Governor Ned Lamont was unsuccessful in 2018 when he tried to expand the property tax credit.

The tax levied by cities and towns is an inflexible vehicle, according to State Senate President Martin Looney, a Democrat from New Haven.

“You might have a two-income couple who are doing quite well. All of a sudden one retires, or loses a job, where there’s a divorce and income is cut – all the other taxes will probably go down because they’ll be spending less and earning less, but the property tax remains the same.”

Last year, lawmakers increased the earned income tax credit for the working poor to 30.5%. Expect more discussion this year.

House Republicans would like to repeal the truck tax, set to begin next year. It is supposed to raise $40 million. But the House Republican leader said it is not accounted for in the budget.

“These truck drivers are just going to pass it right onto the consumer,” said State Rep. Vincent Candelora.

Mental health access for children is expected to be a highlight. The House Speaker said there is bipartisan support for a package.

“There’s a real growing desire to fund more of these programs in schools where kids are most likely to be able to talk to somebody they trust and know and the symptoms may manifest,” Ritter said.

One idea involves bringing mobile mental health units to rural schools that do not have community-based health centers. Another is giving pediatricians more tools to take action.

“They really are the front lines for families when children are experiencing this crisis,” Candelora said.

All agree a short-term and a long-term strategy is needed. From increasing beds at facilities because there is a bottleneck at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to looking at licensing requirements, tax credits for new psychiatrists, and using telemedicine more.

As for education, some lawmakers want an alternative for students who are out of school for an extended amount of time, possibly an online learning platform like the one used in nearby Massachusetts.

The legislative session begins on Feb. 9.