Local lawmakers expressed concern and frustration over points in Gov. Ned Lamont’s State of the State address on Feb. 9.
Rep. Mitch Bolinsky (R-106) said he “liked the governor’s energy in delivering his state of the state address,” but he wondered “if any of his proposals had been approved by the Legislature”.
“While it’s somewhat true that Connecticut is literally awash in money, as an appropriations committee member for 10 years and a budget manager for 30 years in the private sector, I know full well that’s not the case. is not good policy to spend more than we welcome,” Bolinsky said. “Connecticut’s Rainy Day Fund surplus is primarily the result of the 2017-18 bipartisan budget and billions of dollars in COVID relief. don’t want to spend “one-time dollars” to build permanent overhead.”
Bolinsky said his top budget concern is sustainability.
“We in appropriations will soon begin work by line items to adjust the expenses proposed by the governor, which appear to be going up 10%,” Bolinsky said. “Without matching revenue growth, there is a risk of big sustainability issues and very real deficits as early as 2023 if we don’t invest accordingly and become more economically competitive. Connecticut needs to grow its population with good jobs, good schools, and the infrastructure upgrades needed to move it all in. I will report back from time to time during the budget process as I learn more.
Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28) said his “continued frustration” was whether the governor would work with “transparency and accountability” and treat the legislature as an “equal” part of the process in government.
“It feels like we’re on a need-to-know basis, and it’s frustrating,” Hwang said.
Hwang criticized the use of US rescue plan (ARP) allocations to balance the budget, and above all to allow for a sharp increase in spending.
“It’s one-time money that won’t exist in the future,” pointing out that some municipalities like Newtown instead use ARP funds for one-time purchases and take the time to spend the money, rather than spending it. use to offset increases in spending that will need to find funding in the future.
Hwang noted that Newtown is “very lucky” to have city officials who use ARP money responsibly.
The state, meanwhile, “creates a budget that plugs a lot of holes” with funds that “won’t come in the next cycle.”
“They are funding programs that will seek the same level of funding next year,” Hwang said. “They won’t take money away from important programs next year. What happens when the ARP funds are not there and the budget continues to grow? »
Rep. Tony Scott (R-112) criticized increased spending even with a budget surplus.
“Connecticut may have a surplus, but increasing spending by almost 10% is not wise or prudent fiscal management, especially when we have a huge unfunded pension liability that we have to manage,” Scott said. “The aim should be to reduce spending and increase our reserves to even larger amounts so that we can provide real tax relief to residents. Let’s also not forget that this budget relies on federal pandemic relief funds, which will run out next year.
Rep. Raghib Allie-Brennan (D-2) expressed concern that there isn’t enough help for small businesses in Connecticut.
“While the governor’s budget adjustments offer some relief to individual taxpayers, Connecticut’s economic recovery also depends on the health of our small businesses,” Allie-Brennan said. “The Governor’s budget proposals do not provide enough support for our struggling small employers. Small businesses desperately need help dealing with labor shortages, inflation, and other challenges – that’s where I’m going to laser focus this session.
Is Connecticut better off?
Lamont’s election-year state of the state address, which can be viewed in the Feb. 11 print edition of The Newtown Beestarted by answering a question already asked by a Republican opponent: is Connecticut better off than before he took office in January 2019?
“Today the state of the state is better than three years ago, but we still have a long way to go,” Lamont said, addressing a joint session of the General Assembly to the first time since the arrival of COVID-19 in March 2020.
This year, Lamont benefited from increased tax revenue and a succession of historic federal aid that solved Connecticut’s immediate fiscal problems and produced surpluses while calling on liberals to address social needs.
His speech touched on some of those needs — announcing plans to double $20 million in COVID hazard pay for frontline state workers — but he focused on messaging beyond the Democratic base to a broader electorate weary of COVID and buffeted by inflation.
His budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 includes $175 million in tax cuts, mostly in property tax credits, and an additional $160 million that would go to municipalities to pay a cap imposed by the State on local motor vehicle taxes that will benefit vehicle owners in approximately 100 of Connecticut’s 169 cities.
As has been his habit since taking office, Lamont also reminded Wall Street that his administration is committed to assuring businesses that Connecticut is a stable place to grow, even if the costs are high.
He noted that Connecticut jumped 11 spots to rank in the middle of the pack at 24th on CNBC’s list of best places to do business, and that the state had the unfamiliar experience of a improved bond on Lamont’s watch.
With the help of Republicans who had pressured the previous administration to agree to a volatility cap, surging revenues filled the rainy day fund to overflowing, with a legal obligation to send billions for repay unfunded retirement debt for the first time.
The payments mean hundreds of millions in savings for years to come, as well as assurances to state pensioners, a major voting bloc, that pension promises will be kept.
COVID was only mentioned 10 times in the governor’s 3,679-word text, though he made a cheerful and indirect reference as he stepped onto the podium: He smiled and said, “Flesh and bones!”
The governor, whose handling of the pandemic boosted his approval rating from the bottom rank of governors in 2019 to the top in 2020, signaled he was ready to move on.
“Just as I would not allow the state to be defined by a chronic fiscal crisis, I will not allow it to be defined by a COVID crisis,” he said. “Despite the intense headwinds of a global pandemic, we have made significant progress with more jobs being created, more families moving into our state, and more opportunity for everyone.”
CTMirror report has been used in this report.
Journalist Jim Taylor can be reached at [email protected]
A screenshot from the opening day of the 2022 General Assembly shows a relatively full room for Governor Ned Lamont’s State of the State address on February 9.