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:”
Sikorsky Bill Flies to The Governor’s Desk
Governor Lamont signed legislation on Thursday that provides up to $75 million in tax credits to Sikorsky if they are able to secure two contracts to build helicopters for the federal government. The credit will be reduced to $50 million of they are only able to win one contract. In return, the company agrees to keep their Stratford headquarters in Connecticut through 2042 staffed with at least 7500 full time employees. The company was already obligated to stay through 2032 when Governor Dan Malloy signed a bill giving them $220 million in incentives.
Using the emergency certification process, which does not require a public hearing, the bipartisan bill easily soared through the House and Senate before landing on the Governor’s desk. Opponents of the bill see this as corporate welfare and would rather the state become more business friendly so companies want to be here without cash bribes.
Senator Rob Sampson said, “We really don’t need to do this. What we need to do is get our own house in order and make Connecticut a more attractive place for everyone.”
Election Year Gimmicks
Unlike the newly signed SEBAC $1.9 billion dollar agreement taxpayers can expect to receive just under $600 million in tax relief in the Governors new budget deal. “Savings” being proposed are extending the gasoline tax holiday through December 1, a new $250 child tax credit, tax-free retirement income and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to 41.5%. One of the biggest pieces in the proposal is expanding the property tax credit on state income tax returns from $200 to $300 and increasing eligibility to those without children and seniors. The new budget, also, rewards towns and cities with high mill rates by lowering the state’s vehicle property tax cap from 45 to 32.46. Seventy-five out of the state’s 169 towns will receive this benefit.
Republicans called for more relief but according to House Speaker Matthew Ritter, the terms of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) limits what they can offer in tax breaks. Thirteen states recently won a court case blocking the ARPA tax mandate and it is currently under appeal. Lawmakers are still waiting for full details on the proposal and how ARPA will be spent. The General Assembly is expected to vote on the budget early next week.
Clean Air Bill
This week the Senate passed a bill with new mandates and cash incentives aimed at addressing climate change. The bill includes more rebates for electric vehicles (EV) and bikes, requires heavy and medium duty vehicles sold in Connecticut to adopt California emissions standards, electrifying the state fleet, and new construction requirements for EV charging stations. The Department of Transportation, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and Department of Administrative Services all expressed concerns, in their testimony, about the funding mechanisms in the bill. They said, “The administration cannot support revenue reductions not currently supported by the Governor’s budget, as they will require either spending reductions or revenue increases elsewhere in the budget” The debate continues in the House at time of writing
Raises For Personal Care Attendants With A Cut For Labor
The Appropriations Committee approved a new contract between the state and 14,900 personal care attendants (PCA) represented by SEIU 1999 with an estimated cost of $27.5 million. The contract includes paid time off, lump sum payments, and raises for PCA’s who are employed by elderly and disabled clients and paid through state and federal programs. The agreement also requires the state to allocate $1.05 million to the PCA Training and Orientation Fund. The training, a condition of employment, consists of filing out time sheets, how to recognize Medicaid fraud, and understanding the role of a PCA. 30 minutes is set aside for a captive audience style meeting where members of SEIU discuss workers’ rights and pass out union cards to be signed so the union can start collecting dues. SEIU publicly supports a bill banning these types of meetings and it is unclear if they will continue to conduct them.
Lowering Cost of Healthcare by Increasing Fees
In an attempt to lower the costs of health care, the House passed a bill that allows the Office of Health Strategy (OHS) to set annual health care cost growth benchmarks and spending targets. OHS will also be required to publish annual reports on total health care expenditures in the state and how insurers and providers are meeting their benchmarks. Concerns were raised when a last-minute amendment was introduced increasing the certificate of need (CON) application fee from $500 to a range of $1000 to $10,000 depending on cost of the project. According to state statute, health care institutions must apply for CON approval when they want to build new facilities, add services, and acquire certain equipment. The fee also applies to facilities that close or eliminate services.
Juvenile Justice Bill Could Give Our Ring Camera’s A Break
After almost an almost four-hour debate, the House overwhelming passed (129-17) a bill to address the increase in juvenile crime by imposing stricter penalties for repeat offenders, increasing use of GPS monitoring, and investing in more counseling and services for first-time offenders to reduce the rate of repeat offenses by minors. The bill also requires the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to notify town officials of anyone who has applied for a gun permit but has failed a background check. Governor Lamont stated in a press conference, earlier in the week, that he “looks forward to signing it into law.”