As 2021 crawls to a close, many of us are likely saying the same thing we did last year: “good riddance, bring on the next one.” To say this most recent year was challenging would be an understatement. While a lot has changed for the better – the majority of our state has protection from the worst outcomes of COVID-19, our economy is clawing back by the day and Connecticut is well-poised for future success – it can be easy to dismiss 2021 as a rough year. That’s not entirely true, though.
I’ll remember 2021 as a year full of legislative successes. Most prominently, the bipartisan budget passed in June was forward-thinking, supporting our state in the present while planning for the future. On top of increased local education funding, and supporting nonprofits with $110 million in funding, my colleagues and I were able to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit. That means about 195,000 Connecticut households will see $40 million in combined income returning to their pockets. All this happened without any tax increases, the state’s rainy day fund increasing to $3.1 billion and a $1.6 billion payment on the state’s long-term debt – all of which reinforce the state’s focus on the future.
Even though it happened in 2020, the unacceptable response by Eversource to Tropical Storm Isaias remained on our minds, and threats of other utility price hikes, such as a proposed monthly data cap from Comcast, were aggravating. In addition to stopping the data cap this year, I led the charge to hold Eversource accountable, with the Take Back Our Grid Act requiring restitution to customers during prolonged outages and mandating certain staffing levels to support faster storm recovery. Additionally, this year, I led approval of legislation that will stop third-party electric suppliers from overcharging some customers and increase adoption of electric energy storage to better support our power grid and reduce the strain severe weather causes on our power grid.
While the economy has surged back compared to in 2020, that recovery has been uneven, and many folks are likely still struggling in the wake of the pandemic. My colleagues and I have taken action on this issue too, recognizing that we must focus on the future of Connecticut now to support our economy. Among the actions we took: the development of a tourism industry task force to boost that industry’s hiring; reformation of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to better stabilize the market for businesses; expanded research and development tax credits for bioscience, manufacturing and engineering; and expanded workforce pipeline training, which has supported regional manufacturing job growth well above state and national averages.
As we prepare to close the book on 2021 and move on to the next year, I’ll remain focused on the future of Connecticut. Though challenges remain in our path, our state is poised for great recovery and strength, as long as we continue working toward that goal together. I wish everyone happy holidays and a Happy New Year. If we coordinate and cooperate, 2022 has the potential to complete Connecticut’s roaring comeback.
State Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex