Welcome to The Hartford Portfolio, Yankee Institute’s update on what’s happening at the State Capitol during the legislative session.
“Here’s some of what we saw in Hartford this week:”
It Only Took 24 Days
Governor Lamont conducted a Friday afternoon news dump and finally released 1,732 pages of tentative deals with the unions representing most of the state workforce. Agency employees are set to get an average of almost $5,000 in cash, plus retroactive raises, if the General Assembly approves the deal, followed by another $1,000 bonus and up to two more raises by July. Stay tuned for Yankee Institute’s analysis.
It Must Be An Election Year
The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee on Wednesday took up Governor Lamont’s proposed changes to state tax policy (SB11), which the governor has billed as “tax cuts.” One of the biggest pieces was the governor’s proposal to expand the property tax credit on state income tax returns from $200 to $300 and to make more people eligible. But as Yankee Institute explained, the hike would not cover the one-year increase in a typical homeowner’s property tax bill, which averaged $131 during the 2010s. Even households getting the full $300 for the first time would not receive enough to cover the typical increase since 2018.
SB11 would also temporarily extend the Earned Income Tax Credit, and accelerate the planned tax exemptions on retirement income, and reimburse businesses who pay a portion of their employees’ college loans, which targets student loan “relief” at people who need it the least. All in all, the bill appeared to be reverse-engineered from a political campaign flyer.
The governor’s plan also drew fire from Recovery For All, a coalition comprised of progressive groups and labor unions. Their director, Puya Gerami, criticized the bill for failing to “create the level of transformational change” the group seeks.
Labor’s First Amendment Doublethink
The unions continued flexing their muscle in Hartford by pushing yet another “captive audience” bill, this time in the Judiciary Committee. As explained last week, this is a bill that would limit what business owners may say to workers who are considering unionizing. This is a longtime priority for organized labor, but testimony from one of the state’s top union officials introduced a new wrinkle. Jody Barr, head of AFSCME Council 4, bizarrely claimed employers violate workers’ First Amendment rights when they “force people to listen to views other than their own.”
The irony of Barr’s concern about the First Amendment can’t be overstated: AFSCME for decades violated the First Amendment rights of state and municipal employees by forcing them to pay dues-like fees to keep their jobs. Meanwhile, AFSCME last year successfully pushed for a law that forces public employees to sit through a union sales pitch—the sort of presentation they now want to criminalize.
If California Jumped Off A Bridge Would Connecticut, Follow?
Members of the Environment Committee took the unique step to cut themselves (and their colleagues) out of the lawmaking process. A bill approved by the committee requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to adopt whatever regulations are developed by the California Air Resources Board to control emissions from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The bill , which was proposed last year, would limit the types of vehicles sold in Connecticut beginning in 2026.
A California– based clean energy organization, Calstart, said it sees the bill as the “starting point rather than finish line” and pushed lawmakers to add a Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)–one of multiple gas taxes levied in the Golden State. The LCFS was necessary, Calstart argued, “considering the recent dissolution of the regional Transportation and Climate Initiative Program.”
This is not the first time the General Assembly outsourced to California. Connecticut in 2004 joined eight other states by similarly coupling Connecticut’s light duty vehicle emission standards with California.
Being In The Final 4 Isn’t Always A Good Thing
Connecticut again scored high in the nonpartisan Tax Foundation’s annual ranking of state taxes. The state had collected the fourth-most taxes per capita and the second-highest tax burden in the most recent federal data.
One Step Forward For Transparency Two Steps Back
The Government Administration and Elections Committee this week approved several bills dealing with transparency, but not always for the better. Most notably, one bill would eliminate an annual report showing purported “savings” from Governor Malloy’s 2017 SEBAC Agreement. That deal was projected to save the state $24 billion over twenty years, but recent reports—when they were released at all—have shown promised savings often failed to materialize. Also voted out of the committee were bills dealing with posting notices of all unclaimed property regardless of the amount, online posting of meeting notices of state public agencies, a requirement to hold public hearings on bills and resolutions proposed during special sessions, and extending the ability to hold remote public meetings.