Pandemic pressures set to affect the state budget

State of the State

(WTNH) — There is a huge projected deficit in the state budget going out to 2023. Connecticut Officials peg it at $4.3 billion over two years.

While the administration must begin closing that budget gap in February, some lawmakers say talks should have started months ago.

An estimated 180,000 people are collecting unemployment. The economy is fragile and people are still getting sick.

Senator Kevin Kelly, the Republican Senate Minority Leader says, “When we sit down to do the budget, we need to give the middle class a break.”

Kelly says it was clear in July the state budget was out of balance. And now we are heading into a new year. “It’s less time to make deeper cuts which will ultimately affect core services of government,” added Kelly.

Admittedly, he says those social services are in desperate need. Democrats say how the $20 billion budget is crafted by the governor’s team will be driven by federal aid.

“A lot of the buckets of money we get sort of come with a general description and are implemented by states,” explained Rep. Matt Ritter the Democratic House Speaker Designate. Connecticut is set to receive $4 billion from the federal government in the second round of CARES ACT money.

The state’s rainy day fund is estimated at $3 billion. Incoming Speaker Ritter says a COVID vaccine is a shot in the arm in more ways than one. “You may have malls and gyms at capacity as early as May, or June.”

Nonpartisan analysts estimate a current budget hole of more than $850 million. If the governor chooses to dip into the rainy day fund, more than $2.1 billion would be left to balance a budget.

But Lamont also has to pay down long term debt. State consultants are looking at how to get savings. Republicans say the unions are telling members not to answer the consultants’ survey.

Representative Vin Candelora, the Republican House Minority Leader warns if, “Democrats are going to endorse those types of behaviors and temper tantrums we’re not going to be in a good spot to negotiate a budget.”

Democratic State Senator Martin Looney, the Senate President, says, “Budgets are always contentious and usually partisan.”

The Senate President adds – a broad-based discussion on updating tax policies will also be key. Behind the scenes, lawmakers are talking about taxing the rich, a gas tax, a mansion tax, online gaming and the sale of recreational marijuana as revenue ideas.

Governor Lamont tells News 8 he is considering allowing taxpayers to file state taxes later because of the pandemic pressure on households. Lamont says he is consulting his Office of Policy and Management Budget Secretary Melissa McCaw to see if the budget allows for the late filing.

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