CT Gov. Lamont would hike spending 10 percent [Op-ed]

February 15, 2022

Op-ed by State Senator Kevin Kelly as it appeared in Hearst Connecticut Media

Connecticut’s economy and many of its policies are not delivering for working- and middle-class families. Our state remains dead last in job growth and income growth. We lag the rest of the nation in recovering jobs lost in the pandemic. Far too many families struggle to balance their kitchen-table budgets. The cost of living is skyrocketing, health care remains unaffordable and inaccessible for too many, crime is increasing, drugs are pervasive, and Main Streets across our state are struggling.

Gov. Lamont’s proposed budget adjustments, laid out in his 2022 State of the State address Wednesday, fall short of what Connecticut needs to make our state more affordable for all residents in both the short and long term. It’s clear the governor’s budget provides no immediate tax relief at the same time he wants to circumvent the state’s spending-cap protections, which could jeopardize our future stability.

I applaud and appreciate that the governor has identified many priorities that are in line with the policies Senate Republicans are advocating for. We must work together to fight fentanyl, to improve access to mental health care, especially for children, and to address the health care affordability crisis that creates barriers to care.

But I am also disappointed that much of the governor’s budget is rooted in election-year politicking. At a time when the majority of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, Gov. Lamont is playing a high-stakes shell game and proposing a nearly 10 percent spending increase totaling almost $2 billion and abandoning the very protections that turned our state’s financial health around.

Budgets are about priorities. We must prioritize and invest in needed services, but we also must respect the protections that got us here, protections created by a group of bipartisan lawmakers before Gov. Lamont’s time when Republicans held an equal number of seats in the Senate. Circumventing the spending cap sets us up for a cliff where either services will disappear or taxes will drastically increase. It puts our future in jeopardy and will make our state more unaffordable for working- and middle-class families.

The tax policies in the governor’s proposal are clearly election-year pandering. The governor’s proposed $336 million in mostly tax credits do not even begin to scratch the surface to undo the nearly $2 billion in tax increases approved by Connecticut Democrats since Gov. Lamont was first elected. None of this relief is immediate, and most requires that residents pay government first before they see anything back in the future. This is the same governor who increased taxes by over $1.7 billion his first year in office, who put a tax on PPE and the food people eat, and who led the charge for a truck tax during a time when residents are struggling with supply-chain issues and inflation. Let’s not forget this is also the same governor who wanted new taxes on groceries, nonprescription drugs, tolls, health insurance, gasoline, and the list goes on. And this is the same party that just last year wanted a new statewide property tax!

The governor is engaging in typical election-year politics, promising eventual tax relief and increasing spending with no concern for the pain it will cause taxpayers in the future.

There is a better way to help all people in Connecticut succeed, to make Connecticut a safer, healthier and more affordable place to live, work and raise a family.

Good ideas find friends. It is my hope that this year the state legislature, the people’s representatives in government, as well as the governor, will pursue the better way hand in hand.