Gov. Ned Lamont painted an upbeat picture of Connecticut's economy, which will allow him to cut taxes and reduce COVID-19 restrictions.
The governor is an optimist; he’s been in charge of the state for the past 23 months but says Connecticut is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than ever.
“Three years ago, we were standing at the edge of a fiscal cliff, facing a $3.7 billion budget deficit, and today we are deciding what taxes to cut or school programs to grow,” Lamont said.
Lamont addressed the General Assembly in person Wednesday for the first time in two years.
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“We’re delivering strong double-digit investment returns that continue to reduce our unfunded pension liability,” he said.
Republican lawmakers are worried that the state is using federal funds on recurring expenses that fall outside the spending cap.
“He’s increasing a lot of spending and has implemented gimmicks to get around the spending cap,” House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said.
“End around spending caps are a bad idea. But if you’re doing it for a one-time infusion to a certain program or something like that, I think that’s a conversation we can have," House Speaker Matt Ritter said.
Lamont pitched his $336-million tax cut proposal.
“The current property tax credit is too limited, so we’re going to double the number of families who can claim it,” Lamont said. “We’re also going cut taxes on automobiles so no one is struggling to pay more for a Honda in Hartford than a Hummer in Harwinton.”
Senate Republicans have proposed a sales tax cuts.
“It could happen as soon as next week and it gives the relief today, not next year. And it also leaves the money in the taxpayers wallet,” Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said.
The governor spent less time on the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
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“Many of the car thefts and other street crimes are a symptom of a population reeling after two years of COVID-hell,” Lamont said.
Republican lawmakers felt he didn’t touch on the property crime that’s impacting Connecticut residents.
“I think he’s trying to come off as a law and order governor at a time when many proposals under his watch have made Connecticut residents less safe,” Candelora said.
Lamont touched only briefly on the most controversial issue – mask requirements in schools.
“Our hospitals stayed above water and vaccines lessened the severity of the virus. I have asked you, the legislature, to weigh in on the last few executive orders, which allow us to move quickly in the event of another COVID variant,” Lamont said.
Lawmakers in the House will reconvene at 12:30 p.m. Thursday to extend the governor’s executive orders, including that mask mandate which will continue to give the commissioner power to reinstate it at some point in the future.