Gov. Ned Lamont gave business leaders a relatively optimistic outlook Friday by telling them he has “no interest” in raising taxes and doesn’t foresee slashing funding for social services in his two-year state budget, which is due Feb. 10.
The Democratic governor told members of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association that Connecticut still has roughly $3 billion in its budget reserve fund, which state officials had thought would have to be tapped to cover massive projected deficits as it continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
But recent budget projections indicate there could instead be a small surplus when the current fiscal year ends June 30.
Deficits are still projected in the following fiscal years.
“I have no interest in raising taxes, no broad-based tax increases,” he said. “I can keep faith with the people in terms of the social services. keep faith with people in terms of the not-for-profits.
“I know the hell that people are going through during this COVID pandemic,” he said. “I know the fact that a lot of your small businesses are struggling every day just to keep their doors open. And I want to send a signal loud and clear that I hear you.”
Lamont noted that unlike many other states, Connecticut still has a budget reserve fund of more than $3 billion. While many people have ideas about what to do with that rainy day fund, the governor said, the state needs to be cautious.
“In COVID time, things can change dramatically,” he said, acknowledging the state’s public health expenses could grow if highly infectious COVID-19 variants become prevalent in Connecticut. “But in the meantime, I think we’re doing pretty well.”
Lamont said business leaders should have more a lot more clarity and confidence over the next six to 10 weeks as vaccinations continue. The governor reiterated comments he made Thursday that Connecticut can handle many more but is stymied by the supply of doses from the federal government.
“We’ve got the capacity to vaccinate five times as many people. So give us the vaccine. We’ll put it to work, and that will allow us to expand the pool of people,” he said.
Connecticut has been receiving a little less than 50,000 doses a week from the federal government. Unlike the experiences in some other states, Lamont said the state’s shipments have been consistent. However, the state is receiving a one-time bonus shipment of 50,000 doses because of its successful distribution efforts.