Governor Lamont Pushes for Continued Progress in 2020 Legislative Proposals
Delivers FY2021 Budget That Contains No Tax Increases and Invests in Economic Growth and Environmental Protection
(HARTFORD, CT) – As the 2020 legislative session opened for business today, Governor Ned Lamont delivered to lawmakers a series of proposals, including fiscal year 2021 budget adjustments. Those proposals continue the progress the state has made over the last year by holding the line on taxes, investing in economic growth, protecting our climate, and modernizing key state government processes.
One year ago, Governor Lamont laid out a path forward that emphasizes fiscal responsibility, long-term sustainability, and economic growth. That meant taking steps to address the growth and affordability of some of the state’s significant fixed costs; reducing the state’s reliance on volatile revenue sources; modernizing government to improve access, enhance efficiencies, and develop new synergies; resolving long-standing and potentially expensive legal matters; maintaining the fiscal discipline that has allowed Connecticut to build the largest budget reserve fund in history; reducing borrowing while still making key investments; and avoiding destabilizing increases to our major tax rates.
“Working together, efforts adopted by the legislature and signed into law are ensuring that Connecticut’s future will no longer be defined by fiscal crisis, and instead our state has entered a new era of fiscal stability,” Governor Lamont said. “Because of a number of new policies and efficiencies that have been enacted, these years will be defined by the largest rainy day fund in Connecticut history, ensuring that our state has a strong fiscal foundation on which to build itself up – and the credit rating agencies have taken notice. Connecticut’s legislature has made reforms that are moving us into the right direction, and I am confident moving forward that we can continue on this path and keep Connecticut in a position of strength.”
The governor’s full budget proposal, as well as information on all of his other initiatives for this year, can be read on his website at ct.gov/governor in the “Legislative Proposals” section. Fact sheets summarizing each piece of legislation he is introducing will be posted on that site within the next several days.
This year, the governor’s legislative proposals and midterm budget continue the commitment he made to ensuring Connecticut remains on the path to progress and is a place where individuals, families, and businesses alike can thrive.
Expanding Economic Opportunity
- An Act Establishing the JobsCT Tax Rebate Program creates a simple, transparent, performance-based incentive program for businesses to expand in or relocate to Connecticut. Under the JobsCT program, businesses that create and maintain 25 or more full-time, good-paying jobs will earn 25 percent of the income taxes generated by those jobs for up to seven years. Employers located in one of Connecticut’s opportunity zones or distressed municipalities are eligible to earn 50 percent of the taxes over the same period.
- An Act Concerning the Small Business Express Program expands access to capital for the small businesses at the heart of our economy. Under this new version of the Small Business Express program, the state will partner with lenders by partially guaranteeing certain loans. Now that banks have recovered from the Great Recession, our state should follow Massachusetts and Rhode Island in partnering with rather than competing against our community financial institutions to improve customer service and reduce taxpayer risk. The state will also fully fund the current Minority Business Initiative and redouble support for women, minority, veteran, and disabled business owners through targeted loan programs at community financial institutions.
- An Act Concerning Health Care Cost Growth in Connecticut helps address the underlying cost of healthcare so that doctors’ visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, and insurance premiums stop consuming more of our paychecks each year. It addresses costs throughout the healthcare sector by tasking the Office of Health Strategy with monitoring and publishing progress toward annual cost and quality benchmarks, including benchmarks that will increase the provision of primary care. Similar measures have saved patients and employers in Massachusetts at least $5.5 billion over the last six years. The Act also reduces drug prices by allowing the Department of Consumer Protection to propose, in accordance with new federal guidelines, a program for safely reimporting drugs from Canada and protects small businesses and their employees by codifying current safeguards on stop-loss policies.
- An Act Expanding Economic Opportunities in Licensed Occupations modernizes the state’s occupational licensing system. Although that system generally protects public health and safety, consumer confidence, and employee welfare, certain outmoded requirements increase consumer costs, frustrate professionals attempting to renew their licenses, prevent lower-income and other workers from entering promising fields, and discourage skilled workers, especially military spouses, from moving to Connecticut. A report from the Obama White House concluded licensed workers under 35 were more than 20% less likely to move to a new state than their peers in other professions. The Act makes life easier for our licensed professionals, aspiring Connecticut licensees, and aspiring Connecticut residents, especially military spouses, by transitioning additional licenses to an online renewal system, allowing all classroom training to be completed through online courses, expediting the process for recognizing licenses conferred by other states, expanding access to on-the-job training, and clarifying and limiting which criminal convictions can bar applicants from a license.
- An Act Concerning Fair Futures recognizes that no one should receive a life sentence for a misdemeanor offense. To expand access to employment and housing opportunities that are sometimes closed to those with criminal records, the Act erases drug possession convictions and most Class C and Class D misdemeanor convictions, except those involving family violence, sexual violence, DUIs, or bodily harm, after a person has gone seven years without another conviction. The Act also waives fees for indigent pardon applicants, trains members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles on the collateral consequences of a criminal record, codifies the Department of Corrections’ new director of reentry services, and establishes a Reentry Employment Advisory Committee to advise the Department on how best to align prison education and job training programs with the needs of employers in the community.
- The acts implementing Governor Lamont’s budget also:
- Reestablish the Office of Workforce Competitiveness (OWC) as an independent office led by its own executive director. The renewed OWC will ensure the state provides every resident the education and training he or she needs to secure a good job in a growing economy by establishing a unified state strategy, launching key initiatives, overseeing workforce data systems, and convening and aligning members of the workforce ecosystem. It will be housed for administrative purposes only within the Office of Policy and Management.
- Add two new positions in the State Department of Education’s Academic Office so that the state can better support teachers and districts in developing high-quality, evidence-based curriculums for use in classrooms across the state.
- Fund debt-free community college for recent high school graduates with unmet financial need so no Connecticut residents have to give up on their dreams because they can’t afford their cost. That funding is coupled with more advisors for the community colleges’ Guided Pathways initiative so students who chose to attend community college have the support they need to thrive there.
- Provide more than half a million Connecticut workers a real opportunity to save for retirement through easy payroll deductions by offering the Connecticut Retirement Savings Authority a fresh start with staff in the Office of the State Comptroller.
Protecting Our Climate and Environment
- An Act Concerning Climate Change Mitigation recognizes the threat of climate change and takes proactive measures to mitigate it. The Act codifies the target, currently established by executive order, to achieve a statewide zero-carbon electric sector by 2040. It also provides authorizes the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection authority to procure up to 300,000 megawatt hours of energy storage, demand response, and energy efficiency and to review and, if appropriate, adopt California’s tailpipe emission standards applicable to new medium and heavy-duty vehicles.
- An Act Concerning the Establishment of High Performance Green Building Standards for Voluntary Adoption by Municipalities gives towns that want to join the fight against climate change an opportunity, already enjoyed by towns in neighboring states, to adopt a standardized high-performance building standard that lowers the environmental impact of buildings. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will develop that high-performance standard to be cost-effective and address the nearly 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions that come from our buildings.
- An Act Concerning the Reliability, Sustainability, and Economic Vitality of the State’s Waste Management System brings the state’s recycling and material management into the 21st century. Key components of Connecticut’s waste system—recycling and waste-to-energy facilities—are experiencing increasing and unpredictable costs that place economic pressure on municipalities and businesses and undermine economic incentives to choose environmentally-preferable waste disposal options. The administration is committed to working with the towns and other stakeholders to develop a waste management system that works for them and respects our environment. To that end, the Act sets an achievable residential waste reduction target, authorizes the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to request proposals for new, improved, or expanded waste facilities or waste reduction strategies,requires the Material Innovation and Recycling Authority to submit a five-year strategic plan, and collects better data on the state’s waste management system.
- The acts implementing the governor’s budget also:
- Act on the recommendations of the PFAS Task Force to utilize expert health scientists and other stakeholders to establish a maximum PFAS contaminant level in our drinking water, provide resources to sample and test surface water and sediment and remove the dangerous firefighting foam as well as test private wells and drinking water supply sources.
Enhancing Public Health and Safety
- An Act Concerning Adult-Use Cannabis offers a comprehensive framework for the cultivation, manufacture, sale, possession, and use of cannabis that prioritizes public health, public safety, and social justice. Prohibiting the possession and sale of cannabis has produced a thriving illicit market and staggering racial disparities in the dispensation of justice. Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont already have some form of a market for adult-use recreational cannabis, and nearby states including New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey are on track to legalize adult-use recreational cannabis in the near future. This Act, which was developed in careful partnership with those states, protects public health by providing access to safe products, preventing advertising and retail locations that would appeal to children, and proactively updating the state’s indoor clean air act to protect children and other individuals from secondhand smoke. It protects public safety by increasing the number of trained drug recognition experts in state and local police forces, updating traffic safety laws, reforming the administrative process that follows an impaired driving arrest, and freeing the state’s police, prosecutors, and other public safety officials to focus on more significant crimes. It promotes social justice by automatically erasing most cannabis possession convictions and empaneling an Equity Commission to develop proposals for how the individuals and communities that have borne the brunt of the War on Drugs can benefit from the creation of the legal cannabis market. Finally, it sets up a fair tax structure that will provide meaningful new state and municipal revenues.
- The acts implementing the governor’s budget also:
- Consistent with action in neighboring states, ban the sale of flavored vaping products, cap the amount of nicotine in such products, and increase the penalties for selling any nicotine products to people under 21.
- Combat the risk of mosquito-borne EEE virus in Connecticut by increasing the trapping and testing of mosquitoes funding additional sprayings in mosquito breeding grounds.
- Strengthen the social safety net and respect women’s healthcare decisions by stepping in to fund family planning service providers like Planned Parenthood whose budgets were cut by the Trump administration.
- Train and equip 170 new state police officers.
- Reduce the per-minute cost of inmate phone calls by appropriating $3.5 million to cover probation officer salaries previously funded through the commission on those calls. The cost of phone calls from Connecticut state prisons is a national outlier despite research showing formerly incarcerated people who were able to maintain their relationships in the community are less likely to reoffend.
21st Century Governance
- An Act Concerning Optimization of State Agency Operations and Services streamlines state government to better serve customers and save taxpayer money. It allows state agencies to more easily contract with innovative local businesses, to replace snail mail and paper checks with e-mail and online payments, and to competitively procure services through the same reverse auction procedures currently used for goods and supplies. It also eliminates unnecessary bureaucracy in the procurement process without compromising the state’s high standards for fair and ethical contracting by folding 90,000 annual free-standing forms into contractual language. Finally, it updates the state’s set-aside laws to rely on the robust U.S. Small Business Administration certification process.
- An Act Concerning Childcare Expense Reimbursement in the Citizens' Election Program recognizes that no one in Connecticut will have to choose between campaigning for public office and caring for their family. It allows candidates who qualify for the Citizens’ Election Program to have childcare costs, when incurred in order to campaign, reimbursed by that Program.
- An Act Concerning Revisions to the Connecticut Port Authority ensures the CPA is transparent, accountable, and held to the highest fiscal and administrative standards so that it can better support the development of the state’s maritime economy, including the development of a transformative offshore wind sector. The act empowers the governor to appoint the board chair, mandates an annual independent audit, adds the mayor of New London to the board, and requires the board and its chosen executive director conform to additional protocols.
- The acts implementing the governor’s budget also:
- Fund a cybersecurity officer to ensure the integrity of our election system.
- Realize savings associated with his efforts to centralize human resources, labor relations, software licenses across state government.
The budget proposal also calls for adjustments in several revenue areas:
- Governor Lamont is proposing to eliminate the requirement that the state increase fees by $50 million this year, as those efforts would harm Connecticut’s competitiveness, increase regressivity, and create more barriers to employment.
- The budget will also include efforts to increase parity in the taxation of electronic nicotine delivery systems and combustible cigarettes.
- To attract firms to Connecticut in the growing captive insurance market, the governor is proposing an initiative, which includes a three-year look back period for insurers to reconcile their taxes in Connecticut without penalties or interest.
- The proposal also maintains the existing corporate tax surcharge and modifies the phase out of the capital base tax.
- The state’s strong cash position and historic budget reserve fund balance allows the state to take a less aggressive and more affordable approach to repayment of the GAAP deficit.