End of Session Recap

June 5, 2019

As my first legislative session comes to a close, I am grateful and honored to have worked alongside my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on behalf of the people that sent me to Hartford.

When casting each of my votes, I took into consideration the feedback I received from many of you who called and communicated their concerns and support on a variety of issues.

Proud and honored to stand with the 2019 Freshman Class of the CT General Assembly on our last day of session!

This session, we were able approve our biennium budget on time and while not perfect and pleasing to everyone, I have to say that it is responsible and stable, and it funds the Rainy Day Fund at historic levels. With significant investments in education, job growth, and economic development throughout the state, the budget holds the line on spending. The budget came in under the spending cap by $200,000 in year 1 and $5M in year 2, with additional spending cuts in the executive branch expenditures and with 1,000 current vacant positions to be left unfilled.

Here are some budget highlights

It includes tax reductions and reflects opposition to the Governor’s proposal to broaden the sales tax. The business entity tax is eliminated as of January 2020, helping small businesses and encouraging start-ups. And, the capital base tax on corporations is phased out to zero mills by 2024.

In addition, the budget cuts the Admissions Tax at entertainment venues in half from 10% to 5% and provides a new tax credit for craft beer breweries to help grow this booming industry. For those that enjoy their time on the water, the budget rejects the Governor’s increase in the boat tax by keeping the sales tax at the lowered rate of 2.99%.

However, there are tax increases on the following: modernizes the state sales tax by including digital goods, dry cleaning and interior design services, “sin taxes” on alcohol/vaping and fees were increased from $35 to $100 on used car sales and from $20 to $100 on business registrations. The most controversial of the taxes was a new tax called the PET Tax which taxes pass through entities (LLCs/LLPs). PETs were able to offset the federal SALT deductions by 93% through a program put in place several years ago by the legislature. The rate has been slightly reduced to 87.5%. This budget also includes a new “mansion tax,” which is a surcharge on home sales over $2.5 million, only if the seller leaves Connecticut.

Branford residents were clear that they did not support the Governor’s proposal to shift the teachers’ pension costs to our town and we listened. The Teachers’ Pension Program was amortized over a longer period of time yet the budget keeps up with current payments to the fund while not asking teachers to contribute more. This budget uses $380 million of the current year surplus to create a Teachers’ Retirement Fund Special Capital Reserve Fund to further secure state payments of pension bonds. This produces budget savings of $183.4 million in FY20 and $189.4 million in FY21, for a total of $372.8 million over the biennium.

Aging Adults
I heard from many aging residents in Branford that the rising cost of living is pushing them out of their homes and the community they love.

I am pleased that the Democrats in the House and Senate held steadfast and will increase the income thresholds which taxpayers may deduct Social Security income and phase out the pension and annuity tax. This budget also rejects the Governor’s asset test for the Medicare Savings Program for low-income seniors, expands funding for Meals on Wheels, and provides a rate increase to nursing homes. Not only does the rate increase provide staff with a more livable wage, it also prevents unnecessary state spending during a labor strike for federally required temporary staffing.

Economic & Workforce Development
This budget recognizes the importance of developing small businesses, minority, and women-owned businesses with the expansion of the Angel Investor tax credit, a tax credit for those who invest at least $25,000 in an approved business. It also increases the number of businesses and nonprofits eligible to bid on small contractor and minority business enterprise set-aside contracts, including those owned or operated by people with disabilities. The budget also establishes a workforce development pipeline to better match curriculum with employer needs, including an advanced manufacturing focus to fill the thousands of open skilled jobs.

In an effort to support a healthier planet, we’ve found opportunities to reduce single-use waste by implementing a 10 cent tax on single-use plastic bags followed by full ban in 2021 while helping to reduce polluting emissions through rebate incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles. The budget also protects the Passports to Parks account, repealing any diversion of funds from this account.

Higher Education
Funding for Higher Education is increased to help stabilize tuition and improve long term stability of our college and university systems. It promotes “open source” online college textbooks to reduce costs and establishes debt free community college to ensure that all students have access to college.

As a new legislator, I was dismayed to learn that the budget proposals being considered reneged on a deal that had been promised to Connecticut hospitals. Through a tentative agreement, this budget funds local hospitals to expand access to healthcare and protect thousands of jobs.

Often times we hear the mantra, “where are the cuts?” Since 2009, Connecticut has reduced the number of union, non-union and managerial state employees by 16%. This budget realizes over $450 million in state employee healthcare savings and more than $5 million executive branch contracting savings initiatives. We should continue to do more to realize additional savings and going forward I will continue to beat the drum to find efficiencies.

With this budget, we’ve made significant investments in Connecticut’s families and helping protect local property taxpayers. This budget supports the start-up funding for the Paid Family Medical Leave program, adds 4000 additional Care4Kids slots, expands School Readiness reimbursement, protects the bipartisan education cost sharing formula enacted in the FY18-19 budget and gives towns increased flexibility over Minimum Budget Requirements (MBRs) for school funding.

It is my strong belief that these accomplishments offer not only growth but security for the residents of Connecticut.

If there are additional budget items you are interested in, please feel free to contact me.

I am honored to represent you in Hartford. I am at your service and look forward to more conversations and input from you.

P.S. - The rest stops will open this summer!