Perspective on the State Budget

So you may have already seen some headlines about Connecticut’s new state budget.

Yes, it provides $600 million in tax cuts. And it’s true, it helps out future taxpayers by paying down $3.5 billion of our pension debt. Meanwhile, it prepares for an economic downturn by filling up our Rainy Day Fund to $3.1 billion.

But I think these high-level snapshots fail to capture the full picture.

As I sat in the Senate chamber last week and prepared to cast my vote, I considered the myriad of ways that this budget will touch the lives of the folks I represent. From a newborn child to a retiree, I think this budget has something for every generation.

Let’s start with a child born tomorrow in Connecticut. Unacceptably, there’s a one in ten chance that they will not have enough food to eat due to the financial outlook of the family into which they are born. This budget helps to lift that child out of poverty by creating a new Child Tax Credit, putting $125 million into the pockets of more than 600,000 families.

It also expands the most successful anti-poverty tool in the country, the Earned Income Tax Credit. The newly expanded credit will save working families $49 million each year, helping put food on the table in every home.

When that new baby needs childcare, his or her parents are likely to be overwhelmed by cost and underwhelmed by options. This budget invests $85 million to reduce the cost of care, improve facilities and increase the pay of those who do the hard work of nurturing young minds.

In no time, that young mind will be ready for the first day of school. Thankfully, this budget invests $75 million to update HVAC systems and ensure that the classroom waiting for them is safe and comfortable. Funding increases in bilingual education and special education services ensure that teachers are prepared to meet every student’s individualized need.

And just as students can count on finding toilet paper in the bathroom, they can also count on finding free menstrual products, because this budget reflects the fact that both are basic essentials. When school lets out, we’ve invested $8 million to ensure all kids can experience the joy of summer camp.

Down the road, that student may want to pursue higher education. Thankfully, this budget makes free community college available to part-time and full-time students, helping avoid unnecessary debt. When they begin commuting to their first job, they’ll feel the impact of this budget through free bus service, faster train times and improved cell service along the Metro-North line.

If they commute by car, they’ll notice that our inequitable car tax has been dramatically improved. Remember how the owner of a Subaru in Bridgeport has to pay hundreds more in taxes than the owner of a Subaru in Weston? That’s wrong, and this budget fixes it by capping the property tax on motor vehicles at a 32.46 mill rate.

Students and seniors alike face anxiety and depression, and this budget makes sure mobile crisis centers are available 24/7 for those who are struggling.

Plus, too many seniors don’t know where their next meal will come from, or when they’ll next leave the house. This budget invests in Meals on Wheels and funds day programming for seniors. And for retirees struggling to make ends meet, Connecticut’s budget accelerates the phase-out of taxes of certain pension and annuity income, saving residents nearly $43 million.

Living on a fixed budget, seniors often remind me that they have trouble affording property taxes. I’m pleased to report that this budget increases the property tax credit, saving homeowners $60 million each year.

I could go on and on, from new funding to end gun violence to salary increases for non-profit employees to tax cuts that will make your movie tickets less expensive. (Have you seen “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” yet?) But suffice to say that I believe this budget should make each of us proud to live in Connecticut. It was an enormous honor to vote yes.

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