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:”
The General Assembly has adjourned for the year in accordance with its constitutional deadline late Wednesday night. Of course, lawmakers can always return for a special session, but most major issues were tackled before the House and Senate gaveled out.
State Pols Give…
Connecticut’s biennial budget process means lawmakers pass a two-year spending plan in odd-numbered years with the option to make “adjustments” in the even-numbered years that follow. An uptick in revenues meant the state was on track to end fiscal year 2023 with a balanced budget (and pay down a nice slice of state pension debt). But Governor Lamont and lawmakers instead used the revenue windfall to go on a spending spree that hiked General Fund spending by almost $600 million.
Legislators in the wee hours of Tuesday morning received copies of a deal struck by Lamont and legislative leaders. The House voted on the 673-page package hours later, and the Senate approved it the next day.
The biggest new costs were Governor Lamont’s so-called “tax cuts” which are primarily tax credits, payments to certain municipalities, and other election-year gimmicks. But lawmakers and the governor are poised to spend the next six months congratulating themselves ad nauseam for delivering what they purport to be “the biggest tax cut in state history.”
Lawmakers also steered federal COVID money to cut checks for “essential” private-sector workers, who will be eligible for a one-time payment between $200 and $1,000. On the other hand, the General Assembly left Connecticut employers holding the bag on more than $400 million in outstanding unemployment insurance costs stemming from the pandemic.
The General Assembly on Tuesday used a naughty trick to vote themselves—and the state’s constitutional officers—pay raises for the first time since 2001. Legislative leaders deleted the content from a bill titled “An Act Concerning a Study Of State Revenue Polices” and replaced it with language hiking members’ base pay from $28,000 to $40,000 per year and then setting it to rise automatically in the future based on the cost of living. Lawmakers had held a hearing on raising their pay but had nothing on the question of salaries for the lieutenant governor, secretary of the state, treasurer, attorney general and comptroller—which made the 72 percent raise ($110,000 to nearly $190,000) so shocking.
Hitting the Brakes on Car Thefts?
The General Assembly passed a measure responding to the 2020 uptick in car-related crimes committed by minors, giving judges more discretion to handle repeat offenders. The bill, which Governor Lamont is expected to sign, makes case records available to more law enforcement agencies and lets judges require suspects to wear a GPS device if they’re released to their parents.