HARTFORD – With a show of unity and with the support of top Republicans leaders in both the State House and Senate, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont Monday afternoon signed into law a $51.1 billion two-year budget and income tax cut.
The plan reduces the state income tax by lowering the 5.0% rate to 4.5% and the 3.0% rate to 2.0% for the income year 2024. About one million tax filers will benefit from the rate cuts – nearly 60% of all those who are filing. The benefits will be capped at $150,000 for single filers and $300,000 for joint filers. And, officials said, middle and working class Connecticut residents would save between $300 and $500 a year in 2024.
During an approximate 30-minute press conference prior to the signing ceremony, Lamont stood side-by-side with 10 of the state’s most powerful leaders including Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Speaker of the House Matt Ritter, a Democrat, Senate Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, Senate Majority Leader Robert Duff, D-Norwalk, along side Republican House Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford and State Rep. Holly Cheesman, R-East Lyme, the ranking member of Finance, Revenue & Bonding. Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, was expected to attend but had a prior commitment out-of-state.
Lamont and most of those in attendance spoke briefly during the press availability.
As many leaders of both parties have done in recent days, the governor said Democrats and Republicans rolled up their sleeves and got down to work. Forty one of the 53 House Republicans voted for the spending package while 11 of the Senate’s 12 Republicans voted in the affirmative; with State Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Cheshire, voting against.
“You did this together,” the governor said of members of both parties, in a room off from the Governor’s office at the Capitol. “To see what this says about this state, just look around the rest of the country. I like the way Connecticut led today.”
Lamont also lauded the budget and spoke about its contents, which, he said, put high priorities on K-12 education, higher education, childcare, housing, transportation and the environment, among others.
“We are the state of champions [noting recent Connecticut sports teams winning championships], but we are also the state of opportunity,” Lamont said, “For me, it was to listen to your comments. Five months ago, I said we are moving from lifelines to ladders and these are the ladders of opportunity,”
To cheers and applause from the assembled political leaders, Lamont said: “I’d like to talk about what the heart and soul of the budget is – starting with the base expansion of daycare and childcare to give those kids the very best head start in life… There is expansion in terms of debt-free community college and making sure that is available so you can get the skills you need.”
Speaker after speaker touted the money earmarked for education with the lieutenant governor saying “our budget delivers on key investments in child care, K-12 education, higher education and special education….”
Among other things, the budget provides $25 million in additional special education funding in FY 2024 and FY 2025.
It also allocates $443.6 million in 2024 and nearly $400 million in 2025 for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU). CSCU had received $454 million in 2023. The budget also funds the University of Connecticut with $259.8 million in 2024 and $250.4 million in 2025; it had received $245.9 million in 2023.The budget also provides $6 million for student loan reimbursements.
Candelora and Cheeseman said the budget was all about collaboration with Democrats.
There was “collaboration and a willingness to listen to different ideas,” Chesseman said.
Candelora said the “difference for the Republican votes in this budget [compared to] two years ago is that this document does reflect collaboration and input from the Republican party. I want to thank the governor for bringing us into the room and listening to what we had to say… It certainly is a continuation of the spirit of these fiscal restraints that we put in place to now extend tax relief to our residents.”
In a statement on Monday, Kelly said he supported the budget and that his party led the way in providing tax relief to those in the Nutmeg State.
“Connecticut Republicans made sure the voice of the working and middle class was heard in this budget,” Kelly said in the statement. “$630 million in tax relief will be given to the people of Connecticut, which was largely driven by the hard work of Senate Republicans, who succeeded in getting broad-based income tax cuts into this year’s budget after conversations last spring. While the tax cuts included in the budget are helpful, they could have gone a lot further.”
While the great majority of House and Senate Republicans voted for the two-year spending plan, some of those who voted against the measure were adamant in their opposition to it.
Sampson, a critic of many provisions in the budget and press coverage of it, said in a Facebook post that he was “shocked by the news reports over the past few days glorifying the new state budget passed in the state Legislature… The truth about the budget should give you pause, however. The “largest tax hike in 42 years” is basically a nothingburger. We have all been paying loads more taxes in recent years as a result of the elimination of exemptions for certain goods and services mostly because of inflation. Inflation makes everything cost more and the government benefits as a result because tax revenues are similarly rising… The budget gives back only a tiny fraction of the extra money we have been paying.”