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Lamont promises to direct federal funding to Connecticut’s small towns this legislative session

Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont
Jessica Hill
Associated Press
Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont

Elected officials from Connecticut’s council of small towns want the governor and state General Assembly to grapple with education funding, solid waste disposal and local infrastructure during the 2022 legislative session, which started Wednesday.

The state is flush with more than $2 billion in surplus due to an influx in federal coronavirus and infrastructure dollars.

“Remember they used to complain we were in a chronic fiscal crisis? And you guys didn’t know what the budget was going to be for your towns and the budget would come in late and there were cuts you didn’t know about,” Governor Ned Lamont told the state's small towns council on Tuesday. “I come out of small business. You need to be able to plan. I hope we’ve been able to do that, get the budgets passed, get the budgets passed on time.”

Lamont said millions of dollars will be made available for certain projects. He said local governments will likely also need to pick up some of the tab.

“All this money does come with strings attached,” Lamont said. “You know, a lot of that’s in broadband. A lot of that’s in water treatment, and I’ll probably be asking you to come in alongside us.”

“So, if we put up 20% and you put up 10%, we’re that much more likely to be at the front of the line and get the federal support that we need,” he said.

Lamont was joined by Attorney General William Tong who spoke about the recent multi-state court case against pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson and other drug manufacturers about their role in the opioid crisis. Connecticut’s $300 million settlement will be distributed to towns to help with drug issues locally.

Lamont’s proposed budget also calls for a cap on motor vehicle property taxes, an issue that has caused concerns for towns over the years.

Betsy Gara, executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns, said her organization understands that the property tax on motor vehicles is unpopular, in part because of the uneven way it is levied in different municipalities.

“We sincerely appreciate that Governor Lamont’s car tax cap includes provisions to keep towns whole. However, given the state’s track record of reneging on promises to keep towns whole when enacting property tax caps or exemptions, we have serious concerns,” Gara said.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.