Senate Democrats Pass State Budget with Half a Billion Dollars in Tax Cuts, Investments in Child Care, Mental Health, Social Services and More

With an influx of federal aid, and with Connecticut tax revenues soaring due to a rebounding state economy, strong job growth and rising incomes, the second year of the biennial state budget was reconfigured by Democrats and Gov. Lamont to increase state spending in the coming year by 6.5% to $24.2 billion.

The budget includes historic tax cuts for Connecticut's citizens as well as major new investments in some of the human needs that were highlighted by the past two years of the deadly and disruptive COVID-19 pandemic.

The Democratic budget is still under the state-mandated spending cap, has maxed out our state Rainy Day Fund at $3.3 billion, and makes a massive, unprecedented $3.5 billion payment toward Connecticut's 70 years of built-up pension debt.

Some of the $600 million in Democratic tax cuts that will help Connecticut residents include:

  • Continuation of the 25-cent per gallon gasoline tax holiday through December 1, thereby saving Connecticut residents another $150 million.
  • Creates a new $250-per-child credit against the state income tax for low- and middle-income households, up to a maximum of $750, for single filers with earnings less than $100,000 per year and couples making less than $200,000. This saves Connecticut families $125 million.
  • A cap on the tax rate charged by cities and towns on motor vehicles will reduce car taxes by $100 million for residents in about 45% of Connecticut towns.
  • Increase the maximum property tax credit exemption from $200 to $300, saving Connecticut families $60 million per year this year and into the future.
  • Increasing the state Earned Income Tax Credit, a program created by former President Ronald Reagan and used by 186,000 Connecticut residents living in every town in the state. The increased tax deduction will save Connecticut families $49 million a year.
  • Accelerating the phase-out of taxes of certain pension and annuity income, saving Connecticut residents nearly $43 million.
  • The Democratic budget even eliminates the tax on movie theatre tickets, saving movie-goers $2.5 million this year.

On the spending side, Democrats and Gov. Lamont make major investments in the public services Connecticut residents demanded following two years of the deadly and disruptive COVID-19 pandemic: the mental health crisis impacting our children, expanded services for people with substance-use disorders, better wages for people working in our non-profits and as personal care attendants, increased funds to support survivors of domestic violence, more money for community college tuition, job-training programs, and a historic investment in child care services so parents can get back into the workplace.

Some of the hundreds of millions of new dollars that Democrats are spending on Connecticut residents include:

  • $10 million for mental health services at School-Based Health Centers
  • $30 million for increased 24/7 mobile crisis services
  • $1.4 million for no-cost training to address the hiring needs of Electric Boat
  • $72 million for private-sector non-profit pay raises
  • $23 million for personal care attendants
  • $70 million for childcare industry wage enhancements
  • $15 million to renovate and construct early childhood facilities
  • $2.5 million to combat gun violence
  • $2.8 million for survivors of domestic violence
  • $50 million for affordable housing
  • $75 million to update school air conditioning and heating systems
  • $8 million to increase access to town-run summer camps
  • $3 million for senior citizens' adult day programs and Meals on Meals
  • $4 million for Alzheimer’s respite care programs

To view more details and analysis of the Democratic budget, please visit:

Democrats Unveil ‘Free 2 Start/Free 2 Finish’ College Scholarship Program

As part of its Democratic Values Agenda for the 2018 legislative session, Democratic leaders today unveiled their ‘Free 2 Start/Free 2 Finish’ college scholarship program—House Bill 5371—which promises state aid to help qualified Connecticut students start and complete their college careers at community colleges and state universities, thereby improving college graduation rates and preparing our state workforce for the thousands of new jobs needed in the near future.

If approved, the scholarship would take effect in the fall of 2019, and Connecticut would become one of several states in America—following recent efforts in New York, Rhode Island, and others—to provide a state-sponsored higher education scholarship for qualified students.

“Free 2 Start/Free 2 Finish is about expanding opportunities in higher education for students in Connecticut, and building the future workforce in Connecticut,” said state Senator Beth Bye (D-West Hartford), the Senate Co-Chair of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee. “It will increase the number of students who complete the FAFSA. It helps students and their families afford a college education without going into debt. It will increase our number of college graduates, and it helps employers by turning out a more educated workforce.”

“As a student from a working-class background who attended a public university in Connecticut, I know the transformative effect earning a degree can have on the trajectory of one’s life. I know the opportunities it opens to contribute for the benefit of our Connecticut community,” said state Representative Gregg Haddad (D-Mansfield), the House Chair of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee. “This bill will guarantee that no student is denied an opportunity to go to college, earn a degree, and be a contributing member of our Connecticut community. To eligible students, it offers a tuition-free path to an associate’s degree and to a bachelor’s degree. This bill grows our economy by helping thousands of students earn a degree, and assisting our employers by supplying the educated workforce they need.”

“A college education should be within reach for every hardworking Connecticut resident,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “Yet it has become increasingly difficult for low- and moderate-income students to be able to afford the higher education necessary for success in today’s highly complex economy without having their futures’ consumed by crushing debt. That’s why Democrats are proposing the Free 2 Start/Free 2 Finish plan.”

“Educational opportunity and the future of our economy are intertwined, so we need to find better ways to reduce cost barriers to pursuing a college degree,” said Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin/Southington). “The ever-rising cost of attending college is shutting out more and more people every year, and though some will say we can’t afford to help, I say we can’t afford not to make this investment.”

“Connecticut’s largest manufacturers are preparing to fill a generation’s-worth of jobs,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “Ensuring that everyone has access to an affordable higher education is the best investment we can make in Connecticut workers and their future success. Our Free 2 Start/Free 2 Finish plan and our Democratic Values Agenda will help build a stronger, more prosperous Connecticut for the middle class and all our families.”

Similar to New York State’s “Excelsior Scholarship Program” and Rhode Island’s “RI Promise,” Connecticut’s ‘Free 2 Start/Free 2 Finish’ college scholarship program is a so-called “last dollar” program which does not supplant existing institutional awards or other aid, it simply fills in the missing funding gaps.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, from 2009-2015, 74 percent of Connecticut students completed their four-year public college degree within six years (the fifth-best completion rate in the country), but only 34 percent of students completed their 2-year community college degree within six years—placing Connecticut 33rd out of 50 states.

The ‘Free 2 Start/Free 2 Finish’ program has two main components:

Free 2 Start

  • State aid for tuition and required fees for the first two academic years at a regional community-technical college
  • Must be a full-time undergraduate student (30 or more semester credit hours in an academic year) in good academic standing
  • Must meet specific annual family income guidelines (i.e. $48,060 for a family of two, $60,480 for a family of three, $72,900 for a family of four)
  • Must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and accept all financial aid (including scholarships, grants, waivers and institutional aid)
  • State provides a minimum benefit of $1,000 per year.

Free 2 Finish

  • State aid for tuition and required fees to complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree at a Connecticut public university
  • Eligible students must have graduated from a Connecticut high school
  • Like Free 2 Start, must be a full-time undergraduate student in good academic standing
  • Like Free 2 Start, must meet specific annual family income guidelines
  • Like Free 2 Start, must complete the FAFSA form and accept all financial aid
  • Like Free 2 Start, state provides a minimum benefit of $1,000 per year
  • Students must participate in a volunteer-based mentorship and counseling program

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