The Connecticut House passed a two-year $43 billion state budget deal reached by Democrats.
Lawmakers voted 86 to 65 in favor of the budget.
While majority Democrats say the proposal puts the state on a path to fiscal stability, Republicans are calling it a "hodgepodge of ideas" that raises taxes.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter notes the bill sets aside $2 billion in a budget reserve account; addresses a hospital lawsuit and reschedules teacher pension payments.
“We got a good honest budget,” said Gov. Ned Lamont earlier in the day Monday, “[The budget] lives within our means, that doesn’t increase tax rates, and allows our towns and municipalities to plan moving forward, keeps faith in the most vulnerable, puts money into education. I think it’s something we should be proud of.”
The two-year spending and taxing plan amounts to about $43 billion. It includes a new one percent sales tax on prepared meals and beverages served in those establishments, a higher fee for trade in vehicles paid to the state by car dealers, a 10 cent fee for plastic bags, and other new enforcements of the sales tax.
Gov. Ned Lamont had proposed a wide-scale broadening of the sales tax, removing exemptions worth tens of millions of dollars, but Democrats in control of the General Assembly did not like that idea, instead targeting wealthier residents in specific ways.
There will be a higher tax on homes sold worth over $1 million, and there is a new tax on pass-through entities, the same entities that saw tax breaks under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Congress.
“Those people are still getting a break,” even with the new tax, said Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, (D – Berlin).
Republicans, for the first time in years, did not present an alternative budget.
Sen. Len Fasano, (R – North Haven), the top Republican in the Senate, said any calls from Gov. Ned Lamont for Republicans to join budget discussions were disingenuous, at best.
“I don’t know what table he’s talking about,” Fasano said. “It certainly wasn’t the budget table.”
Fasano described the budget as “disgusting,” referring to numerous individual projects in districts or appropriations to individual organizations.
He said if a budget is considered a list of priorities, then Democrats he said are favoring organized labor rather than regular residents.
“There is no increase for social services,” he said, “So, we did union contracts of $100 million and we couldn’t find $1.1 million so that the people in the elderly facility couldn’t keep $70 in their pocket.”
The budget also includes a landmark deal with hospitals around Connecticut, for them to end their lawsuit, and for the state to provided just less than $200 million for Medicaid payments. The agreement is meant to calm the political waters between hospitals and the executive branch, which were strained under the previous Malloy administration.
Any criticism coming from Republicans, Democratic leaders say is without merit, because of the fact that they did not provide an alternative.
“You can jab at us, you can poke at us, and I will just go back and say, you didn’t even propose a budget, and if you think all of these cuts are so easy, you didn’t even propose one,” said Rep. Matt Ritter, (D – Hartford), the House Majority Leader.
On the issue of transportation, tolls are not included in the budget, though Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday he intends to call lawmakers into special session to come up with a toll plan after the regular session concludes Wednesday evening.
Republicans have accused Democrats of sweeping close to $200 million out of the Special Transportation Fund in the proposed budget, a charge Democrats deny.
Lamont said of getting lawmakers to side with him on tolls, “I don’t want you guys to duck the most important decision we can make. How do we fix the transportation system and get this state moving again.”
The budget now goes on to the Senate.