Gov. Dannel Malloy officially signed the state budget on Tuesday, which has been controversial for the last few weeks.The Connecticut General Assembly passed the revised state budget during special session early Tuesday morning. The budget originally caused controversy because hospitals cut jobs and long-standing companies threatened to leave the state.
Lawmakers spent much of Monday in special session debating changes to the $40 billion budget. The Senate wrestled with the changes for almost 12 hours before passing it 19-to-17. Then it went to the House where it passed 78-to-65.\
The approved budget reduces taxes for some but increases them for others.
When the initial budget was passed on June 3, General Electric and Aetna complained and even threatened to leave the state. It meant millions in extra taxes for corporations and millions cut in medicaid funding for hospitals, which forced Hartford Healthcare and Bristol Hospital to slash jobs.
The revised budget reverses the corporate tax package and also restores funding to hospitals.
"I think the message was sent, but what they did to correct the budget, didn't correct the problem," Minority Leader Len Fasano, who is a Republican, said.
"We have lowered the taxes that have caused some of the corporations to have concerns," Majority Leader Bob Duff, who is a Democrat, said.
The rollbacks did come at a cost. Funds were cut from the transportation and property tax reform programs.
"We had to be very surgical about where we found those cuts, but we got to the number we needed to get to," Duff said.
The new plan scales back about $180 million of the approximately $1.5 billion in tax increases.
"We need to rethink what we're doing as a state, because the citizens are suffering, people are moving. Connecticut continues to be the most expensive state to live in the country," Fasano said. "We need to change that."
The budget also caps the car tax at 32 mills in 2017 and 29.5 mills in 2018.
Malloy said it was tax relief for thousands of middle class Connecticut families.
"This was a difficult budget with no easy or popular decisions," he said. "But listening to many communities across the state, from business to non-profit to our municipalities, I believe we have a budget that helps deliver prosperity for the future. Working together, we made the difficult choices necessary to put Connecticut on the long-term path to success, while making major investments in transportation as well as providing car and property tax relief."
Lawmakers also passed two other pieces of key legislation.
The first was body cameras for state police. It will be up to cities and towns, if they want their officers to wear them. If they do, they will receive state funding.
"Body cameras will ensure that everybody is doing their job. Doing it respectfully and in accordance to the law," state Rep. William Tong-(D-Stamford) said.
Also, drug possession laws have been tweaked. Personal possession will be a misdemeanor at least for the first two offenses. Three-time offenders will be charged as felons, with a 1-to-3 year prison sentence.
The 2-year, 40-billion-dollar budget takes effect on Wednesday.
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