Our latest state budget was signed by Gov. Lamont and Democrats said it was the biggest tax cut in state history.
Republicans argued, though, that the state can easily afford to do more for middle income families and small business owners.
NBC Connecticut's Mike Hydeck spoke with House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora (R-North Branford) about inflation.
Mike Hydeck: "So you say your party wants bigger tax cuts, more so than the current plan. The governor says it's already the biggest tax cut in state history. What's your response to that? And what would you like to see done?"
Vincent Candelora: "Yeah, I think what this last session represents is really a missed opportunity. You know, the tax cuts that the governor points to is a one-time child tax credit. So individuals that have children under the age of 18, can receive up to $750. And then we have a 25-cent gas tax reduction on unleaded fuel only. We wanted to see more systemic change. So we were looking at, there's an opportunity here to actually reduce the income tax, which can save homeowners, you know, middle class and below, upwards of $750 a year on an ongoing basis. And we also think we've got to look at diesel tax, we've got to cut that as well, because of just the inflationary impact it has on our goods and services that's delivered to the state of Connecticut. So we think that there were other opportunities that really need to be looked at to not only address inflation, but on a long-term basis, make Connecticut more affordable for its residents."
Mike Hydeck: "We interviewed Senator Bob Duff earlier, he said, 'Why didn't they come out with this plan earlier? We could have done this, you know, during the session.' He said it was too little too late. What's your response to that?"
Vincent Candelora: "Well, I don't know where he was this session, but we brought the plan out during session prior to the end. And my question to him would be why wouldn't you called Republicans into the room to have a conversation? This is the first time, I've been doing budgets for 10 years in Hartford. And this is really the first time that Republicans were totally shut out of the process. And they didn't want to hear from us. So yes, we're raising the issue again in July. But this issue was raised back in April, when we were still in session. The reason we're bringing it up again, is because we still have a surplus upward $700 million that we can utilize to provide this tax relief. If we don't do it now, that money is just going to go in and pay unfunded pensions, which helps government. It doesn't really help the residents of Connecticut."
Mike Hydeck: "So back in 2017, the bipartisan budget deal that went into effect, that was put in motion to pay down our long-term debt, which we are doing now, the Democrats saying having bigger tax cuts now could actually affect that process. Is that a concern for you? And do you agree?"
Vincent Candelora: "No, I don't agree because we've overperformed. So we never realized that we would have a maxed out rainy day fund of $3.3 billion. We never envisioned we'd already be paying down $2.8 billion into our pension. So collectively, you know, we're looking at $6 billion going toward unfunded liabilities. What we're saying is, let's relieve some of these tax savings and put it back to the people. We're looking at $700 million out of $6.7 billion of savings. So, you know, I support those mechanisms that were put in place. Republicans have championed them. But right now, we don't need to overly aggressively take all that money in. We could share it to the residents and relieve their pain."
Mike Hydeck: "So now, as you mentioned, we're paying nearly $5 a gallon for gas. Diesel is over $6. Now that 10-cent tax, possibly, I guess it's about 10 cents that could go into effect July 1 on diesel to make it even more expensive. What's the likelihood you think that you can actually get a special session on the books and address it?"
Vincent Candelora: "You know, I think the only way it's going to happen is if the public starts standing up and calling for this tax relief. The governor has said, you know, we're all going to be seeing significant tax relief over the next 90 days. The public, when they realize that that tax relief really isn't coming for them, I'm hoping that they will sign our petition. We're going to be rallying throughout the state of Connecticut, and have residents speak up and call for these reforms, because we could afford it. We could certainly do it. And I think that's the way we're going to effectuate change is by the people."
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Mike Hydeck: "You're an owner of a small business, I think two small businesses, in fact. What else can be done to help small businesses? We did pay towards the unemployment fund. That's another subset that's that's hurting right now."
Vincent Candelora: "Yeah, I mean, we've really got to look at that. There is a slush fund in the state of Connecticut of $163 million dollars. It's just sitting there as part of a CT Invest Program. It's not designated for anything. We should be putting that money toward unemployment compensation fund. There's still over $400 million of unemployment debt that was ratcheted up under COVID. If we are going to make this instance pay that back, it's upwards of over $400 per employee. Taking that debt off the books for them will certainly help small business. You know, supply chain disruption is something that state government really can't help out with. And so there's a lot of challenges that businesses have right now that we can't address, but what we can do is take some of those financial pressures off of them, and I think that's what we should be looking at."