HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – The Connecticut Senate sent a revised, one-year $24.2 billion state budget to Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk on Tuesday night. Democrats say the budget is the largest tax cut package in state history, while Republicans say it’s all an election-year gimmick.
While the plan cuts taxes by an estimated $600 million and dedicates more money to some popular initiatives, including a major mental health care initiative, only two Republicans in the House and Senate — Sens. Kevin Witkos of Canton and Heather Somers of Groton — voted for the deal negotiated between Lamont and Democratic leaders of the General Assembly.
“Our budget is a reflection of CT’s needs & values. It gives taxpayers the largest tax cut in state history while also investing in childcare, crime prevention, & care for our vulnerable residents. Thank you to the legislature for passing this transformational, bipartisan budget,” said Gov. Ned Lamont.
GOP leaders said the level of tax relief is a disappointment given the state’s $4.8 billion projected surplus, and that lawmakers should’ve made systemic changes to Connecticut’s tax system.
“Six hundred million dollars is a drop in the bucket compared to the economic harm that has happened to Connecticut families under this majority,” said Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, referring to the Democrats, who control the General Assembly.
Only one Democrat in the General Assembly, Sen. Dennis Bradley of Bridgeport, voted against the package.
“This is a humane budget, a responsive budget, and meets the needs and aspirations of the people of the state of Connecticut,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven. “We are not people who shut our eyes to the needs of others.”
The Senate vote came a little more than 24 hours before the legislative session ends Wednesday at midnight.
Here are some highlights of the bill, which would take effect July 1 if approved by Lamont.
The state gas tax cut and free bus rides will continue through Dec. 1.
Some tax breaks are permanent like the $300 property tax cut and the car tax cut for 75 towns.
Some cuts are temporary, including not taxing 401Ks and pensions under $75,000, the $250 child tax credit, and expansion of earned income tax credit for the working poor.
PANDEMIC PREMIUM PAY
The budget creates a new Connecticut Premium Pay bonus program for private-sector workers who were on the job during the entire period of Lamont’s public health and civil preparedness emergency.
Eligible workers are those included in phases 1a and 1b of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations. They’d receive a range of $200 to $1,000 depending on their income. Eligible part-time workers will receive $500 under the program, to be administered by the State Comptroller.
The plan reduces the state’s unfunded pension liability by $3.5 billion. Also, $40 million in federal pandemic funds are being used to reduce the estimated $493 million debt in the state’s unemployment trust fund. That’s in addition to $155 million in federal funds deposited last year, in an effort to reduce the burden on businesses that have to cover the cost.
MENTAL HEALTH AND OTHER SPENDING
The budget includes additional funding for various mental health and substance abuse treatment and support services, including money for 24/7 mobile crisis services across the state and services for children.
There’s also funding for school readiness programs and child care centers, including “emergency stabilization” grants; more than $220 million in new money for nonprofit social service agencies; free menstrual products in restrooms used by students in grades 3-12; and increased funding for special education and bilingual programs.
The video below is from News 8 at 5 on May 3, 2022.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.