HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Despite a strong push from progressive Democrats and their allies, it appears unlikely some proposed tax increases on the wealthy will appear in any final budget deal with Gov. Ned Lamont, House Speaker Matt Ritter said Wednesday.
Lamont, a Democrat and a former businessman, has been publicly opposed to a new “consumption tax” and capital gains tax on higher income taxpayers, as well as some other tax increases proponents say are needed to fill revenue gaps after the state's share of federal COVID relief funds run out and to address long-standing inequities.
Lamont has argued it's not the time to raise taxes as Connecticut emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The governor has not moved his position on capital gains or anything like that. And we are at June 2nd and the House wants to run a budget on Saturday,” Ritter, a Democrat, told reporters on Wednesday morning. “So I think it’s fair to say that we made that concession to him and we’re hoping he’s willing to make some concessions to us on the spending side.”
This year's session of the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on June 9. Ritter has made it clear he thinks lawmakers must pass a new two-year budget before they leave for the summer break. Since it takes a couple days to piece together the budget documents, he's urged his colleagues to reach a deal quickly with Lamont.
Democrats control the General Assembly and Republican lawmakers have not been part of the closed-door talks with Lamont and his staff.
Politically progressive groups have been pushing Lamont to support tax increases on the wealthy for months, arguing this is the moment to raise billions of dollars in new revenues that are needed to finally address inequities in education, health care, housing, local aid and workforce development. But Ritter acknowledged there aren't enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto if the General Assembly passes a new budget with those tax increases.
In exchange for agreeing to drop the tax increases, Ritter said he expects Lamont will agree to some key funding priorities for legislative Democrats, such as expanded eligibility for the state's HUSKY health insurance program, a major investment in mental health services, rate increases for nursing homes and greater state reimbursement to cities and towns for untaxable property.
He said it appears likely a final budget deal will also include a new $300-per-child tax credit for low-to-moderate income families and a higher state Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income families.
Some other major issues still remain undecided as the General Assembly's adjournment deadline looms. The list includes legalization of recreational cannabis and Lamont's proposal to have the state join a multi-state Transportation and Climate Initiative that involves raising money through wholesale fuel suppliers to ultimately pay for clean transportation investments.