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With Bipartisan Budget Support And Passage Of Priority Bills, Lamont Had A Good Session

Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont
Jessica Hill
Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont

The new state budget in Connecticut goes into effect Thursday, and what a difference a pandemic makes. Two years ago, Governor Ned Lamont couldn't pass his signature policies. Now he’s scored some big wins: adult recreational use of pot is the law and the General Assembly approved a highway use tax for large trucks.

Lamont said he’s proudest that he had bipartisan support for the state's new two year budget – which was helped by increased surplus revenues and billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 aid.

“It’s balanced. It’s on time. It doesn’t raise taxes, and cuts taxes for working families. That’s a pretty good start,” Lamont said.

He said the extra money means Connecticut can increase its rainy fund and pay down unfunded pension obligations.

“This year we are paying down about $1.3 billion. You know that saves future governors about $100 million a year. That’s what that annual savings is going to mean to the state. And when they didn’t make that contribution that went in the other direction. We’ve got a long way to go,” Lamont said.

Lamont spoke just before he signed the budget into law. Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz highlighted some of the provisiones in the expansive $46 billion two-year plan.

“We are providing 40 more people with access to healthcare. And we are investing record amounts in addressing mental health and combating opioid addiction,” Bysiewicz said.

Martin Looney, the Democratic Senate President, said the budget increases state funding to cities and towns for the first time in 10 years. That's because the state has been struggling to recover from the Great Recession.

“I’m particularly proud of the fact that we have restructured the 'payments in lieu of taxes' program. This is transformative. I think in terms of municipal aid it also builds equity into the formula in a way that had not previously existed because a town got the same level of reimbursed under PILOT regardless of what its fiscal situation was for PILOT eligible property,” Looney said.

He said that means more money would go to the state’s larger cities that have more needs and a shrinking tax base.

Vincent Candelora, the House Minority Leader, said Lamont won Republican support after he held the line on new wealth taxes proposed by Progressive Democrats who wanted to use the money to expand social programs.

“Not just the taxes on the rich. But we wanted to make sure the taxes on our middle class communities came out as well. When that happened, it made it that much easier decision to support it,” Candelora said.

Lamont failed to win Republican support for his push to have Connecticut join a multi-state Transportation and Climate Initiative. But Democrats were able to get the governor’s highway use tax for large trucks passed. Candelora said he’s certain that law would be challenged in court.

“I’m not sure that truck tax is ever going to be able to be collected,” he said.

Democratic Representative Geraldo Reyes is the chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. He said his members are pleased that the governor supported a wide range of social equity programs that included a clean slate for ex-offenders.

“To me the equity pieces that are in this budget are reflective of good work, good ground work, that everybody is listening. You know it isn’t perfect but we are getting there. And it's a start,” Reyes said.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.