May 9, 2019

Sen. Bergstein: Update on the Biennial State Budget

HARTFORD – State Senator Alex Bergstein (D-Greenwich) issued the following update today on the biennial state budget process and her thoughts on various aspects of it:

“The legislative session of 2019 will end on June 5, and our task is to pass a biennial state budget before then. We need a budget that restores fiscal discipline to our state government and which restores confidence in our state’s future.

In late February, Governor Lamont submitted his proposed budget. Late last week, the Appropriations Committee proposed its budget, and the Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committee submitted its package of revenue proposals as well.

In years past, Republicans have submitted their own proposed spending and revenue plans, but this year they did not. Why not? The deadline has now passed, and I’m disappointed they didn’t offer their own program of state budget solutions to be discussed and debated.
The time for making philosophical statements and floating new ideas has passed. Over the next four weeks, the executive and legislative branches of state government will work to reconcile the differences in their respective plans and hammer out a definitive two-year state budget. This budget MUST balance; it’s required by our state constitution.

I’ll be working with my fellow legislators and with the governor’s office to help craft a budget that meets the needs of Connecticut’s citizens, restores fiscal responsibility, and sets us on a path of economic growth. Here are some of the budget items now on the table that I support or oppose:

  • Estate and Gift Tax – The Finance Committee revenue plan eliminates the gift tax (which is great), and it also contains a strategy to eliminate the estate tax on an individual basis. I’ve been working hard to eliminate Connecticut’s estate tax and we’ve now made some significant advances. Senate Bill 1136 would potentially eliminate a person’s estate tax by providing a tax credit equal to 200% of a decedent’s investments in Connecticut social impact bonds or in a Connecticut Innovations-established venture capital fund. I know this isn’t a clean elimination, but it is a positive and creative compromise. What it says in a nutshell is that if you invest in Connecticut, you won’t pay an estate tax. We all need to “invest” in the success of Connecticut by caring about people and communities across the state.
  • Property Tax – Despite what you may have heard about higher property taxes, this did not occur. There is no “mansion tax” or “statewide property tax’ in the Democratic Finance Committee budget. The fear-mongerers have once again been proven wrong.
  • Capital Gains Tax – There is, however, a proposed 2% capital gains tax on joint filers with incomes above $1 million. This is estimated to raise $262 million in new revenue. I oppose this tax and will work to find ways to fill that hole in the budget.
  • Business Services Taxes – Again, the Democratic Finance Committee also rejected most of the governor’s proposed new business-to-business taxes, such as taxing accounting, legal, and real estate services. For that I am thankful.
  • Plastic Bag Fees – I believe we can all use less plastic and do our part to minimize pollution. Reminding ourselves to bring reusable bags when shopping is a fairly simple behavior change. As a society we use far too much plastic, and much of it is unnecessary. That’s why I support a ban on single-use plastic bags and I support a fee on the use of paper bags (but not a fee on both, as proposed by the Finance Committee.) I applaud stores like BJs and Costco that are already doing the right thing, even without legislation, and avoiding plastic bags. We can change our behavior and use less plastic!
  • Cannabis Revenue – I remain opposed to the legalization of a substance which science tells us harms the brains and development of young people. There is no amount of new revenue that can substitute for the health and wel-lbeing of our children.

Many of you ask me how the legislature is reducing state spending. That’s a priority for me as well, and here is one concrete example of how we’re making Connecticut government smarter and more efficient: The Democratic Appropriations Committee proposed significant reductions in spending. They’ve cut 500 state jobs in the Department of Social Services, or 17% overall. But don’t worry – this reduction in jobs will not impact the quality of services being delivered. Services have been outsourced to local non-profits who provide those services at lower cost and with the same or higher quality. This is a win-win!

“What else can we do? Lots. We all have to work together – citizens and legislators – to create a bright future for our state. That starts with a positive attitude! Spreading fear or false information is unhelpful and, in fact, destructive. If we want Connecticut to succeed, we need to be positive, productive and non-partisan. We all play a critical role in our democratic government. Thank you for believing we can do this together and working to make positive change.”