As negotiations on a new two-year Connecticut state budget continue, the General Assembly's Progressive Caucus is putting pressure on Democratic leaders to include more revenue they say will be needed once federal COVID-19 relief funds run out.
Several members of the group appeared Friday at a news conference organized by the coalition Recovery For All CT, saying they believe the state needs to think long-term about addressing inequalities in education, health care, housing, local aid and workforce development.
Members of the statewide coalition of nearly 50 labor, community and faith organizations said they want lawmakers to extend their focus beyond the historic $2.6 billion in state recovery funds and other federal aid that is plugging holes in the next two-year budget.
“I’m concerned that this budget and the way we are talking even now is the same way we speak all the time, which is about right now,” said Sen Gary Winfield, D-New Haven. He said he worries this moment will be a “blip” and won't result in “real equity” in the long run for Connecticut residents who've been disenfranchised.
Recovery For All CT released on Friday a list of more than $3 billion worth of long-term initiatives they want to see included in the budget. Those range from HUSKY health insurance coverage for immigrants without legal status to universal pre-kindergarten programs. The coalition contends these programs will require additional revenue that can be generated by taxing wealthier residents and corporations.
The Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee forwarded a tax package in April that included a new “consumption tax” and a new 2% surcharge on capital gains for taxpayers with higher federal adjusted gross incomes, beginning at $500,000 for single filers. The plan is part of the negotiations underway between the Democratic legislative leaders, who control the General Assembly, and Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. It also includes a permanent 10% surcharge on the state’s corporate business tax.
Lamont has said he opposes new tax increases as Connecticut emerges from the pandemic. Also, he contends that his budget, including his plans for spending the federal assistance, are focused on making the state more equitable and helping people who were disproportionately harmed by the pandemic. Despite the disagreement over taxes, he said Thursday that a deal is within reach with legislative leaders in his own party.
“I think in terms of priorities, we have broad agreement in terms of what we have to do to focus on those folks who have been hit hardest by COVID,” he said. “I’m pretty confident we’re going to be signing a budget in the next couple of weeks.”