Lamont Aims to Close Budget Gap With Federal Funds

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Gov. Ned Lamont pitched a two-year, $46 billion budget Wednesday that doesn’t raise income or sales taxes and relies on federal stimulus funds to close a $4 billion deficit.

“While my administration will continue to be laser-focused on managing the COVID-19 crisis, we must focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.  Every action we take in response to COVID-19 is in the interest of the economy and public health and safety,” Lamont said.  

In a pre-recorded address Lamont laid out his vision for the state, which focuses on recovering from the pandemic but also looks to legalize recreational cannabis and sports betting. 

Lamont’s budget proposal anticipates about $29 million from legal cannabis and about $47 million from sports betting and iGaming. 

“Our neighboring states are moving forward with sports betting and igaming, and Connecticut should not leave these opportunities for other states to benefit from our inaction. My administration has been in active negotiations with our tribal partners to bring the state’s gaming economy into the digital age,” Lamont said. 

Lamont added: “Rather than surrender this market to out-of-staters, or worse, to the unregulated underground market, our budget provides for the legalization of recreational marijuana.”

The budget relies on $1.75 billion in anticipated federal aid over two years and in the absence of more stimulus the state would need to tap into the rainy day fund -- that would require a three-fifths vote of the general assembly.

“Forty percent of the budget deficit is left into question and one of those options on the table is to drain the rainy day fund, which was a critical initiative of the Republicans,” House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said.

Candelora said he wouldn’t describe the budget as conservative or liberal. 

“It’s sort of a mediocre budget that is safe and provides multiple choice options for the legislature to deal with,” Candelora said. 

Lamont’s budget also implements a new user fee on heavy trucks to prevent the special transportation fund from going broke. 

“I find this to be a vindictive proposal. We had the guts to stand up and fight against tolls last year and two years ago along with many other people. Since that failed it seems like he’s coming back to target trucking, which is playing a huge role in the COVID economy right now,” Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, said.

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