HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - Connecticut's governor took center stage Wednesday to make his first budget address.
The full text of the address is available here.
Gov. Ned Lamont delivered an approximately 40 min. long budget address on Wednesday.
Among the topics Gov. Ned Lamont discussed, many residents watched for he said about tolls.
"By now, you’ve heard the budget I’m submitting [Wednesday] models two options for tolling – truck-only or electronic tolling on cars and trucks," Lamont said. "I would only consider this option if we maximized the discount for Connecticut EZ-Pass users and/or offered a “frequent driver” discount for those who are required to frequently travel our major roadways. It’s estimated that out-of-state drivers could provide over 40% of tolling revenue for Connecticut. We foot the bill when we travel through neighboring states, it’s time out-of-state drivers do the same for Connecticut."
During his campaign, he said he only wanted to toll tractor trailers.
This past weekend, he said he was open to expanding it.
"I know this idea of tolling just sounds like one more damn tax I am going to have to pay, and I cannot fix this state unless I fix our transportation system," Lamont said during his budget address.
Trucks would generate $200 million per year, not enough to modernize transportation. All vehicles would generate $800 million.
Read the full budget proposal here.
Lamont has made adjustments on the number of gantries, 53 for cars and up to 100 for trucks.
"I don't think taxpayers want to spend 50 cents, $1, $3 every day they are on the road. I think they're tired of people being in their wallets," said Republican Minority Leader and State Senator Len Fasano.
"Governing is hard. Making these decisions is very difficult, which is why many governors in the past did not do it," said Democratic Majority Leader and State Senator Bob Duff.
The much talked about grocery tax is out, but Lamont wants to expand the state sales tax to include legal services, haircuts, dry cleaning, and veterinary services as another way to generate revenue.
Also, fees on plastic bags and deposits added to wine and liquor bottles.
However, revenue will not be enough to balance the state's budget and fix its fiscal problems.
"Under our budget proposal, consumer-oriented services will no longer be tax exempt," Lamont said. "For example, why do you have to pay a tax on manicures but not when you get a haircut?"
Lamont said he wanted to make the tax code fairer by taxing digital services, such as Netflix. He wants to tax streaming and downloads on items such as movies. He's also proposing taxes on not only the materials used to renovate a home, but also the services rendered by the architect, engineer or contractor.
Cities and towns are also being asked to pay more.
"We are making a commitment to education. While some towns are losing population will receive a little less, other towns with growing populations will receive a little more," Lamont said.
Lamont ran through a number of proposals aimed at generating revenue for the state, and healthcare and pension changes were all touched upon.
When it comes to healthcare, Lamont's proposal tackles its rising costs. He wants to expand wellness and cost-saving programs such as health enhancement and smart shopper.
Lamont also wants to restructure the teachers retirement system and adjust the payscale.
He said if nothing is done, the annual teacher pension costs could increase by more than $2 billion.
"It is badly underfunded and doesn’t keep faith with our current teachers, especially the younger ones," Lamont said. "The state compounded the problem by layering on a pension obligation bond, which, let me put this gently, did not work out the way we hoped."
To fix it, he wants to reduce the assumed rate of return from 8 percent to 6.9 percent and restructure the retirement system payment schedule from 12 years to 30 years.
"Similarly, the state employee plan still represents a large share of the overall budget and accelerates state payments by $100 million dollars a year - an unacceptably high cost which would either force draconian cuts to needed services, or large tax increases," Lamont said. "Working with the Treasurer and our friends in labor, we hope to smooth out the payments in both pension systems, so our annual contribution is a lower percentage of our budget over the next generation. This is similar to what you would do on your own home mortgage."
He wants to have some municipalities pay 25 percent of teacher pensions.
"A town like Greenwich, they pay their teachers much more than anybody else. They also have smaller class sizes, but the state pays the entire cost of their pensions," said Democratic State Senator Martin Looney.
Wealthier towns would pay more, distressed towns would pay less.
Lamont also said he wants state workers to pitch in by renegotiating raises.
SEBAC, which represents 40,000 union employees, said they agreed to nearly $2 billion in concessions and "we will not be part of still asking for more sacrifices."
Lamont also supports raising minimum wage and paid family leave.
"It's really problematic as it's currently drafted. We would rather have these things worked out in a private public partnership not through a mandate," said Joe Brennan, of CBIA.
Following Lamont's speech, lawmakers issued statements.
“Governor Lamont put forth a responsible budget that addresses our deficit and invests in our economy,” said Senate president pro tempore Martin Looney, a Democrat representing New Haven. “[Wednesday] was the beginning of the General Assembly’s budget process and I look forward to working together with him in crafting a final product. I want to thank the Governor for including critical policy proposals for Connecticut families including raising the minimum wage to $15 and a paid family and medical leave program.”
Senate majority Leader Bob Duff of Norwalk applauded the governor's plans.
“The Governor’s budget is a first step in the legislature’s budget process," Duff said. "Senate Democrats and myself will be evaluating and debating his proposals and many others in the months to come. I am particularly supportive of the Governor’s ideas to streamline state government by modernizing our IT infrastructure and moving more state functions online. However we move forward we need to ensure Connecticut’s budget works for middle class families, improves education, and invests in our economic future.”
Channel 3 will break down Lamont's address even further starting at 5 p.m.