inflation challenges

Face the Facts: Democratic Senate Majority Leader Talks About Inflation

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

We are billions of dollars in the black, and not just for the next budget year.

With sky high inflation, the state's piggy bank may be overflowing right now, but it's likely yours is draining more quickly than ever.

The governor and state Democrats helped with a list of tax cuts that will take effect is summer, but is that enough?

NBC Connecticut's Mike Hydeck spoke with Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) about what's to come.

Mike Hydeck: "So when inflation concerns started mounting, in recent months, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen believed Fed policy could keep things under control. This week, though, she said she was wrong with that assessment. Now, first up, inflation is at a 40-year high. Is enough being done considering the historic surplus we have in our state?"

Bob Duff: "Well, I think we're doing everything we can. Again, this budget passed a record $600 million of tax cuts for the people in the state of Connecticut, for working families, seniors, students all around. I think it's going to make a real difference. I know in fact, that has already made a real difference for folks. So we'll continue to do more. But I know that the work we've done right now has made a real impact."

Mike Hydeck: "And things did continue to change and get worse since the budget was signed. For example, diesel is above $6 a gallon now. Gas is above $5. So that's hitting everybody pretty hard. Since things continue to change, and they actually head to trend toward the worse side, should a special session address that later in the summer, do you think?"

Bob Duff: "Well, let's look at it this way. Gas prices right now in Connecticut are the lowest in the entire Northeast. And I know it because I've traveled through many states. Diesel prices, the tax is actually the lowest it's been since 2011. And it is, after the potential increase that may come July 1st, it will be the lowest since 2015. Connecticut is not responsible for high gas prices. People want to have somebody to blame, they should go blame Vladimir Putin, for his Putin price hike. And so I think, you know, having these, the gas tax cut that we've had for 25 cents per gallon, has saved families quite a lot of money. We also have the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit, property tax credit increases. So again, that all that adds up to over $600 million of tax cuts for the people of the state of Connecticut. And that's come because of the fact that Democrats have worked hard over the last decade to make very difficult decisions to reduce our workforce, to make cuts, to make sure that we made some very conservative fiscal estimates. And by doing so, we now have a rainy day fund that is full. We're paying down our pension debts, which has not happened in a very long time. And we're on some solid fiscal footing."

Mike Hydeck: "So let's talk about mom and pop where this hits the street. Okay, so it's not just big rigs. The governor would say, 'Well, it's truckers from out of state that move things through that should be paying this tax. They're responsible for more than half of the diesel that's purchased.' It's also small businesses, though, making their own deliveries. It's the dry cleaners, it's a local landscaper, people have construction equipment, a lot is coming out of their bottom line that gets passed on to the consumer. With the historic, honestly, overflow of what we have in a surplus for this year, and then years to come, the way it's continued to be configured right now. Can there be more? Can surpluses in projected years be used for part of this?"

Bob Duff: "Well, again, we have $600 million of tax cuts in our budget that begins July 1. We have cut the gas tax since April. We've made bus rides free for the people of the state of Connecticut. Can there always be more? Of course, there can be more and those are things that we will certainly discuss. But let's keep the facts here, which are the tax cuts that we have. Gas prices are high all over this country. In fact, all over this world. The 25 cents that we have provided, and cut, is helping families and all across the state of Connecticut. I know it's providing real relief to people. We have the Republicans who've put up a plan that is literally a day late and $1 short. And you know, we've been out of session now for a month and now they present some sort of campaign rhetoric type of proposals. But yet, let's also keep the facts of that based on our budgeting that we've done over the last decade, we have a full rainy day fund. We are paying down our pension debts which wipes out deficits over the course of the future. In the short term, we also are making sure that we are on solid financial footing in our budgeting. What the Republicans proposed to do would wipe out a lot of that, it would go back to the Rowland Rell years of not paying down pensions, of shorting various programs and shorting paying down pensions. So I'd rather be more fiscally conservative, fiscally responsible than what they're trying to propose, which are just election year gimmicks."

Mike Hydeck: "What are the chances a special session happens before July 1?"

Bob Duff: "Before July 1? I'd say it's probably slim. But again, if the Republicans really wanted to make a difference, why didn't they come out with a budget during the regular session of the legislature? Why are they waiting a month after our session that we've had and now proposing something?"

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