Tax cuts, criminal justice reform and the future of COVID-19 restrictions are among the many issues Connecticut lawmakers are expected to address in the 2022 legislative session on Wednesday.
This will be the third year in a row that the General Assembly will have to complete its work during a lingering pandemic. Lawmakers plan to hold virtual meetings for at least the month of February.
But unlike the last two legislative sessions, this year Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont faces re-election in November, along with the entire Democratic-controlled General Assembly, and politics are expected to play a bigger role. in the three-month session. Already, it looks like some of the issues will likely carry over to the gubernatorial race.
Here’s what to expect:
Lamont is due to present state lawmakers with proposed changes to the two-year, $46.3 billion state budget passed last year. Considering the state expects to have an operating surplus of $1.48 billion by the end of the current fiscal year, Lamont and Republicans have proposed tax cuts.
Lamont unveiled a five-part plan last week that includes expanding eligibility for the state property tax credit against personal income tax; the capping of local property taxes on motor vehicles; accelerate the planned and progressive exemption of income from pensions and annuities from personal income tax; and expanding eligibility for a student loan tax credit program for employers who help repay their workers’ loans.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have already proposed temporarily cutting Connecticut’s sales tax rate to help families hit by inflation. They called for reducing the tax from 6.35% to 5.99% and eliminating the additional 1% tax on meals from February 15 to the end of calendar year 2022.
Lamont’s expected Republican rival in the race for governor, Madison businessman Bob Stefanowski, criticized the governor’s plan for failing to address what is needed to make Connecticut more affordable. He also called for lowering the sales tax, eliminating the tax on food and restaurants, and making gasoline cheaper.
The Connecticut Business and Industry Association criticized the governor’s plan for not doing enough to help businesses, many of which are struggling with labor shortages and the lingering effects of the pandemic. The CBIA has proposed a number of initiatives, including exempting safety clothing and personal protective equipment from sales tax and using more federal coronavirus relief funds to reduce the estimated debt. $1 billion from the state unemployment fund that businesses will eventually have to repay.
“Too many Connecticut small businesses – critical to our prospects for recovery – are struggling and desperately need help dealing with labor shortages, inflation, pending tax hikes to pay off state unemployment fund debt and many other challenges,” said AABC President and CEO Chris. DiPentima said in a statement.
One of the first tasks state lawmakers face when the session convenes is deciding what to do with the governor’s roughly 12 remaining executive orders, which are due to expire when his public health and civil preparedness emergencies expire on Feb. 15. measures, including face mask and vaccination requirements.
A vote to extend some of Lamont’s orders could come in the early days of the session. On Wednesday, the governor suggested there could be changes to mask-wearing rules in schools.
“Well, if the numbers keep going in the right direction, we’re going to have a really solid conversation with the Legislative Assembly over the next week. Let’s see where we are in a few days, but there could be some changes coming,” he said. However, Lamont still wants the state Department of Education to have the ability to reinstate mask wearing if it becomes necessary.
Even though the legislative session is shortened this year, given the November election, lawmakers are still expected to debate a wide range of topics, including juvenile delinquency. While some Democrats argue that there is a pandemic-driven increase in certain criminal activity in Connecticut that all states have experienced, Republicans argue that there has been an increase in violent crime specifically in Connecticut that must be addressed this session.
“Connecticut must act to make our state a safer place. We need action,” said state Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford.
Meanwhile, expect lawmakers to debate how the state should spend the remaining $232 million in federal COVID relief funds, a figure that will likely change after Lamont releases his budget proposal. the state.
They are also likely to discuss how best to spend $5.38 billion in federal funding Connecticut expects to receive over the next five years; whether to set aside more federal funds to improve ventilation in schools; how to help non-profit community organizations in financial difficulty; whether to help terminally ill patients die; how to deal with various labor shortages; whether to ban flavored vaping products; how to address racial disparities in public health; and whether to try again to impose limits on solitary confinement in prisons after Lamont vetoed such a bill last year, among other issues.