The governor has always mentioned a desire for lawmakers from both parties to craft legislation together. So how close did he come to achieving that goal with this budget proposal?
NBC Connecticut's Mike Hydeck speaks with Republican Minority Leader Vincent Candelora (R-North Branford) about the Republicans' take on the governor's proposed budget.
Governor Lamont Presents Budget Proposal
Mike Hydeck: So tax cuts for the middle class, help for local business regarding the pass through entity tax, more money for cities and towns. This sounds a lot like some proposals from your party. What's your take on the governor's version of it?
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Vincent Candelora: Yeah, I mean, Republicans were very pleased overall with his budget, especially the focus on providing systemic tax relief for our lower and middle income individuals in Connecticut. You know, with historic surpluses, now is the time that we could right size our tax structure, and really try to eliminate the tax burden completely for our lower and middle class residents. And I think he's achieved that in this budget. And so we're very pleased.
Mike Hydeck: So the state's rainy day fund is overflowing, and it's projected to continue to do so. Are there other tax breaks that should be offered? Should we be going a little farther with the gas tax and income taxes change, property taxes? Or do you think they're about right?
Vincent Candelora: Well, I mean, we certainly would like to see a 1% reduction for the middle class. The governor has pegged it to about a half a percent, which would result in a savings of about $600 per family. You know, we'd like to move it to $1,200. So we're willing to have that conversation if it does work. But we also think the governor is making a critical change to the pass through entity tax. He's restoring that tax credit fully. That will have a really good impact on our small businesses. You don't hear about that tax, but it really is a job killer. So we think that he has struck the right balance of trying to provide tax relief for our residents. And then also making sure that the tax structure remains competitive for businesses as well. So we recognize that it's a it's a balancing act, and we think the governor achieved a really good balance.
Mike Hydeck: So one of the more immediate tax breaks your party has suggested in the past was getting rid of the prepared meals, tax at restaurants. Also, another way to help small businesses paying down more of the unemployment fund. Are either of those things on the table moving forward, would you say?
Vincent Candelora: Yeah, I mean, we would like to put that on the table. The unemployment fund is a one-time revenue that needs to go into that system. You know, private businesses stuck paying back a billion dollars of borrowing that government did, because of the pandemic. It was no fault of their own that our economy had to be shut down. They shouldn't bear the burden of refilling that. So we would like to see some attention be paid to that. We do think with sales tax and inflation, we are bringing in more sales tax because of inflation. That's not economic growth. So we would like to right size the sales tax as well. We shouldn't be achieving all these increases off the pain of inflation. And one of those areas that we could reduce is that 1% meals tax.
Mike Hydeck: You're a small business owner. We've heard and we've reported right here on this show how difficult it is to try to hire people. Is enough money going for training and all the jobs? I mean, we don't, we've talked about manufacturing for a long time. But there's also nursing and teaches, teachers excuse me, and so many other professions that are in dire need of employees. Are we doing enough as far as job training, do you think?
Vincent Candelora: Yeah, we have critical areas everywhere. And I think we certainly, the governor's budget recognizes that it does put workforce training in and I think we have to take a look at that. We also have to look at our programs that really are preventing people going back to work. You know, our welfare system is a little bit too rich, I believe. And as the federal money starts running out, I think we have opportunities where people are going to be wanting to go back to work. And it's slowly happening and hopefully, we can continue along those lines. But we do need to continue to look at workforce development. We had a nursing shortage before the pandemic. And so it's only gotten worse.
Mike Hydeck: One of the things that happened this week, were considerations UConn students are planning to protest next week. They're upset about funding, the level of funding they received in the governor's budget proposal. What's your take on that?
Vincent Candelora: You know, we all knew that that federal money was temporary and you know, shame on UConn or shame on our higher ed system that wants that permanent increase built into their budgets. It's a lot of money that needs to be supplanted. The governor's budget does not cut them. It actually increases from where they originally were before the federal funding. So we've got to have a real conversation here. The State of Connecticut doesn't print money the way the feds do. We cannot just come in and supplant $3 billion of federal money that's going away.
Mike Hydeck: And that was a consideration from your party when the money was being handed out from the federal government in the beginning. I have one last question. I got a little less than a minute. Is there anything you would like to see as a priority when you head to the floor yourself as far as the budget is concerned before June?
Vincent Candelora: Yeah, I think we need to have a real conversation about our energy crisis. You know, people are getting those higher bills in the mail. You know, part of that is caused from the war in Ukraine, and our inability to get liquefied natural gas. But it's also caused by some of the extreme environmental policies where we have only focused on solar and wind in order to generate electricity. We've got to have a conversation about hydro, about bringing natural gas into Connecticut and more generation in the state of Connecticut to reduce people's bills. We have to diversify. So I think that's going to be an important conversation this session.