Senator Hwang Slams Democratic State Budget for Ignoring Legislative Process and Regressive Taxation

June 5, 2019

Click HERE for a link to Senator Hwang’s Floor Speech.

HARTFORD — The Connecticut State Senate passed the Biennial State Budget for the Biennium ending June 30th, 2021. The budget was negotiated behind closed doors without any input from Republicans, and passed both the House and the Senate on almost democratic party lines with a few brave Democrats joining Republicans in voting against the bill.

Senator Hwang lambasted the clandestine process by which this particular budget came about, citing the unusual combining the budget document and the implementer bill into one to include over 60 legislative bills that did not go through the legislative process, some not even a public hearing or raised in committee.

“Going into this session, we had a $3.7 billion deficit hole to close. But I was optimistic. We had a new Governor, a new legislature, and I was ready to make hard decisions and have a constructive session,” said Senator Hwang. “We have a legislative process in this building. We propose bills, have hearings, debate, vote in committee, screen, debate some more, until they come for a final vote in the House and Senate. This budget disregarded and brazenly disrespected any effort toward  transparency and committee bill vetting process.”

“This bill is a travesty to the legislative process, and an insult to every person who came up to Hartford to testify on legislation that did go through the proper process. This budget includes a financing plan for a Public Option state insurance plan, that never received any public, industry and consumer input. It also includes a brand new funding formula to pay for debt-free college based on an internet lottery game that has never been vetted or discussed before the Public Safety and Higher Education Committees. It even includes a hastily-drafted provision to ban non-compete agreements for ‘homemakers, companion, or home health services worker’. It doesn’t define those terms or specify which agreements are now void. Not only does this hurt the home-healthcare industry, but shoddy work like this does us all a disservice. This budget contains over 60 binding laws and regulations that we haven’t seen before or were rejected in the committee process.”

Leading to the question that Hwang asked, “why do we even have a legislative process at all? Why don’t we just put all our legislation in the budget and only have one vote? Why even put on this sham and charade with our constituents where we say ‘we hear you’, ‘we’re listening to you’ and “we represent you’? This budget process says to our constituents that ‘politicians know better than you’. This is why people distrust government. It is why when we say we’ll do something, people prepare and expect something else entirely.”

“This budget even includes a massive ‘diversion’ of money from the Special Transportation Funds — 171.6 million over two years. But that money ‘swept’ or taken out of the Lock Box – it was ‘diverted’ before it got there. So that’s fine. This validates every person on the street who thinks that they can’t trust government.”

“It seems the only people who win in this budget are the special interests, big business, and even bigger government, as we punish the middle and working class resident and our fragile local small businesses with the most regressive tax budget I have ever had the displeasure to vote on.”

The budget includes $861.5 million in new or expanded taxes in 2020 and $921.3 million in 2021. It also gives out $9.4 million is pork-barrel spending.

New Taxes:

  • 1% tax on prepared foods in restaurants, bars, taverns, hot dog stands, etc.
  • 1% tax on soda, beverages and alcohol dispensed at bars or from soda fountains
  • New tax on digital downloads
  • New tax on safety apparel
  • New tax on parking
  • 10 cent tax on plastic bags
  • Tax on dry-cleaning and non-coin operated laundry services
  • A tax on interior design services, an industry dominated by women in CT
  • $50 Million in unidentified fees delegated to the governor
  • New conveyance tax on properties valued over $2.5 Million

Raised or expanded Taxes:

  • Increased ridesharing tax (Uber and Lyft) to 30 cents
  • Increased fees on vehicle trade-ins
  • Increased filing fees for LLC’s and LLP’s
  • Massive small business tax increase ($50 million annual increase)
  • Changes to pass-through entity taxes that would raise revenues for CT
  • Extends 10% corporate surcharge
  • 10% tax increase on alcohol

Non-profits, towns & cities, and anti-smoking campaigns, to name a few, got less than they needed, but there was plenty of pork to go around. Many of these appropriations are likely for fantastic programs that I would support in better times. Unfortunately, we are in a crisis and some of them seem gratuitous to say the least.

  • $27,000 for the Connecticut Writing Project
  • $25,000 for the Greek Orthodox Trinity Church in Bridgeport
  • $50,000 for the Stamford Downtown Special Service District
  • $100,000 for the New Haven Arts Festival
  • $140,000 (total) for 3 Little Leagues, including one named for State Rep. Minnie Gonzalez (Hartford)
  • $37,000 for a Boy Scout Troop
  • Much, much more

Connecticut had a $3.7 billion deficit going into this year, an escalating pension liability and other fixed costs, a shrinking population, and a sluggish economy, but still the legislature refuses to cut spending to anything except for social services. We are broke. We don’t have the leeway for feel-good pet projects. We need to fund critical services, keep tax rates flat, eliminate wasteful spending and break down barriers that hinder growth in our business sector and economy as a whole. We are driving people out of state, and we need to change our ways fast before it’s too late to right this ship.