Opinion by Rep. Fred Camillo
During my time in the legislature, I’ve seen my share of budgets from the governor’s office. Each one is different and offers a unique vision for the state, but within the last decade, most of these proposals have relied heavily on new revenue despite clear objections from the taxpayers, and with bad results.
When Gov. Lamont took office in January, he began the very difficult process of drafting a two year spending and revenue plan that is balanced and addresses many of the serious issues facing Connecticut. I thank the governor for his hard work thus far and appreciate the effort he has put into these proposals.
Below I have outlined the pros and cons within the governor’s budget. I will preface this by saying that his budget is just the beginning of the process. The Appropriations and Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committees will ultimately draft proposals towards the end of session that will be considered by the full legislature; however, the final product must be signed into law by the governor.
If he vetoes the bill, we will need to override with a two-thirds majority. In other words, the budget we pass must receive his approval, which is why his proposal carries some weight and also why we pay such close attention to it. His plan is a starting point for discussion. There are areas where we are far apart, but there is certainly common ground.
Areas of Concern
- Expansion of sales tax to veterinary care for pets, non-prescription drugs, renovations and home repairs, parking, legal and tax return services, and more. This proposal would also end the popular “Tax-Free Week,” which has conveniently taken place in the summer near the beginning of the school year.
- Toll proposal that would install 53 electronic gantries throughout the state on I-95, I-84, I-91 and Rt. 15. The added cost of tolls to small businesses and their employees will ultimately trickle down to consumers, causing a rippling effect across the middle class.
- The governor would end the transfer of the revenue from the new car tax to the Special Transportation Fund, which was approved by the General Assembly last year. This revenue source allowed us to fund critical infrastructure projects without toll revenue. By eliminating this, the administration has essentially raided the STF, rendering the lockbox voters approved in November, useless.
- Eliminates increased income exemption level for Social Security, pension and annuity income. The most recent bipartisan budget allowed individuals making $75K and below, and married couples making $100K and below to exclude pension and Social Security earnings from their income tax calculations. Now, this bipartisan tax reform is in jeopardy.
- FMLA (paid leave) would harm businesses and would come in the form of a payroll tax. While I support the concept, there are other ways to accomplish this, such as providing tax credits to employers who offer paid leave to their employees.
- Our unfunded liabilities (pension costs) are astronomical. The governor has proposed making lower payments now and extending the payment period, which would drastically increase our overall interest payments and would push the problem onto future generations.
• This plan would push some of the teacher pension costs (25%) onto towns, which will ultimately result in property tax increases (remember, this is in addition to the sales tax expansion and tolls).
The bottom line? All of this adds up, and it will directly affect the majority of CT residents who do not have unlimited disposable income.
- Reduce bond authorization, helping to curb state spending
- Elimination of the Businesses Entity Tax, helping small businesses compete
- Elimination of the Gift Tax
- Restoration of the property tax credit for everyone, not just seniors and people with dependents
- Healthcare changes for state employees
- Removal of mileage from calculation of pensions for legislators
- Budgetary mandate relief for municipalities
Fortunately, there is still time to develop a budget that we can agree on. We can start with what we do agree on and hopefully work out the issues where we are divided because at the end of the day, everything we do in Hartford is for you. Although I will not be silent when I disagree with my colleagues, I will also not allow partisan politics to get in the way of real solutions.
This budget process has a long way to go before we vote on a final document, but I will keep you posted on any developments. Please feel free to reach out to me at any point to discuss your ideas and concerns. This is an open conversation and I welcome your ideas, whatever they may be.
We all love our state. We all want to return it to its former position as an economic leader. To do so means not returning to the failures of the past, and instead look to be bold with policies that grow, not shrink, our economy. Let’s endeavor to do this….together.