HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut lawmakers are voting on several items’ emergency certifications because they are time-sensitive.
Both the state House and Senate voted to extend free school lunches through June, at the cost of $40 million.
By an act of Congress, Hartford Public Schools already have a free lunch program. Advocates said all districts should have free meals to avoid stigma and poor students going hungry.
“Some families are embarrassed to fill out that federal form,” State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, the Republican Ranking Member of the Finance Committee, explains. “You have to weigh human nature, but you also have to weigh where is it really needed.”
There is a bipartisan argument against funding this permanently.
State Rep. Toni Walker, the Democratic chair of the budget-writing appropriations committee, agrees wealthy districts don’t need the help.
“They have the ability we need to direct these dollars to different kids,” Walker said.
There is a fix to the bottle bill, which allows consumers to cash in the bottle deposit. The Department of Energy and Environment opened the door to expand the policy in a way lawmakers did not want.
The agency included spirit seltzers like the vodka drinks High Noon, but they were only supposed to include malted drinks, like the popular Truly.
State Rep. Vin Candelora, the Republican House Minority Leader, says he “understands they were pushing the envelope of the law. The agency also has to recognize that they are pushing the patience of the legislature.”
The mistake is in the language of the bill, specifically the description, “hard seltzer,” but that product is not legally recognized by state agencies that collect the tax.
“We should have made it clearer we didn’t, and now we are clearing that up,” State Rep. Maria Horn, the Democratic chair of the finance committee, admits.
Lawmakers are also voting on a deal to continue the 2017 budget control caps.
“It worked five years ago,” the Democratic House Speaker, State Rep. Matt Ritter, explains. “That magic in the bottle is important to maintain on this one issue, and if you let this drag on too long, you won’t have this magic.”
Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) wants to pay down more pension debt. Republicans agree but want to extend the rules for 10 years, not the 5 being debated.
“It’s important to get it out of the way before negotiations,” Candelora said. “We need to know what the parameters are.”
Those budget controls have helped generate $9 billion in surpluses, allowing for tax cuts and program investments.