connecticut politics

Gov. Lamont Delivers State of the State Address

ned lamont swearing in
NBC Connecticut

Governor Ned Lamont delivered his State of the State address on Wednesday.

The address will kick off a busy legislative session.

Tolls

Tolls have been a very polarizing issue here in our state. Democrats are pushing for tolls on trucks saying it could bring in $170 million over the first year. They are planning to vote next week.

"I think this is the best shot we have at making a serious investment in our transportation future," said Rep. Gregg Haddad, (D) Mansfield.

Republicans on the other hand look at this as yet another tax. They want to restructure the way the current transportation money is spent and they're worried about a lawsuit in Rhode Island over the trucks-only tolling program.

"If the will of the people is that we have tolls in Connecticut, do it based on sound factual judgement, but to just go ahead and run ahead when we know there's a lawsuit pending, why would we want to do that," said Sen. Kevin Witkos, (R) Canton.

State Budget

Lawmakers will also have to make tweaks to the two-year budget that passed last year.

The legislature last year passed a two-year budget that mapped out a $22 billion tax-and-spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Lamont is expected to release his proposed changes on the opening day of the new session, and projections show he should have a little more money to work with.

The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates the state’s main spending account, the General Fund, will have a $183.8 million surplus next fiscal year, which is slightly higher than the budget $166.2 million surplus. Also, the state’s budget reserve account is projected to grow to $3 billion by fiscal year 2021, a record high.

But that doesn’t mean Connecticut’s financial challenges are over.

This year’s general fund has a nearly $30 million projected deficit, due mostly to tax refunds and state agency shortfalls. The Office of Fiscal Analysis is also projecting general fund deficits in future fiscal years: $757 million in Fiscal Year 2022, $1.2 billion in 2023 and $917 million in 2024.

Recreational Marijuana

This also isn't the first time lawmakers have talked about legalizing recreational marijuana, but now the question is whether they'll get enough support this year to do it.

The idea of making recreational marijuana legal and taxing it isn't new. Our neighbors to the north in Massachussetts have already done it. Some lawmakers are concerned over the ramifications.

"We have no test right now for marijuana. We want to make sure our roads are safe," said Sen. Kevin Witkos, (R) Canton.

Sports Betting

Another hot topic lawmakers plan to discuss this session is sports betting. A new bill that would give Connecticut's tribes exclusive rights could solve the stalemate.

"It's going to be good for municipalities, it's going to be good for the state, it's going to be good for the workforce, and it's going to bring more people to our state as well," added Sen. Saud Anwar, (D) South Windsor.

Vaping

Vaping is also top of mind for legislators. It's already illegal to buy electronic cigarettes if you're under 21, but there's more discussion expected this session on other ways to keep vaping products out of the hands of minors.

But first, lawmakers are waiting to hear from the governor on his list of priorities.

You can watch the State of the State address online and in the app at noon.

NBC Connecticut / Associated Press
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