Ned Lamont, the Governor of Connecticut, anticipated a USD 24.2 billion budget for the financial year commencing from July 1. The budget enhances state colleges and universities’ expenditure. Employment rates in educational institutions have fallen during the coronavirus pandemic.
The budget, a surge of around 7.9% over the current year’s expenditure strategy, includes USD 160 million to repay towns for inhibiting property taxes on motor vehicles and USD 47.4 million for employee wage surges. Furthermore, Lamont has planned to plummet a mill rate cap on motor vehicle property taxes from 45 mills to 29 mills, wounding taxes on approximately 1.7 million vehicles in 103 cities and towns.
A mill rate of one mill implies that personal, real, and motor vehicle property owners are taxed for USD 1 per USD 1,000 of evaluated taxable property.
Lamont stated in a State of the State address on Wednesday that the governor’s office was also going to diminish taxes on automobiles so that purchasing a Honda in Hartford is cheaper than a Hummer in Harwinton.
Since 2020, enrolment has diminished by over 17% at the state’s community colleges and over 13% at its public universities. Ned Lamont’s budget comprises USD 65 million for tuition assistance and support to the institutions. Outside the revenue losses triggered by the pandemic, Connecticut’s state colleges and university system are also witnessing enlarged salary expenditure from collective bargaining.
Lamont’s strategy includes around USD 1.4 million for new express rail service from New Haven to New York City on the transportation forefront. The service will inhibit travel time by 10 minutes, to 1 hour and 36 minutes. However, Lamont will hinder the number of express trains to 21, from the 28 running before the coronavirus pandemic.
Below are some highlights of Ned Lamont’s budget proposal, which characterizes a 2.5% surge over 2021’s budget and includes approximately USD 2.8 billion in federal COVID relief financing.
Lamont’s plans for taxes
Lamont’s strategy calls for extending the state’s general regional property tax credit eligibility against personal income tax by eradicating the current requirement that beneficiaries be 65 and older or possess dependents. Lamont’s budget plan also enhances the credit from USD 200 to USD 300. Lamont also demands hastening a strategized phase-in of pensions and annuities being relieved under the state’s income tax. The phase-in positioned for 2025 is currently scheduled for 2022.
The governor also anticipated plugging local taxes on motor vehicles. The strategized change would inhibit the rate in 103 cities and towns. Municipalities will be reimbursed for the revenue forfeiture by the state.
Lamont’s plans for mental health
The governor’s budget comprises approximately USD 160 million in additional financing for mental health services, encompassing USD 26.4 million to extend accessibility to mobile crisis units for children and adults. The strategy also comprises financing to launch children’s behavioural health urgent crisis centres and sub-acute crisis stabilization units, alongside a new-fangled 12-bed psychiatric team at Connecticut Children’s Medical Centre in Hartford.
The excess financing arrives amidst a spike in demand for mental health services during the pandemic, specifically for children.
The budget also comprises funding for several substitutions to in-patient psychiatric care, including the programs held in the community. However, some advocates are anxious that it is insufficient, given the demand for services joined with staffing deficits.
Brian Williams, an addictions counsellor at Connecticut Valley Hospital, stated that they had witnessed an increasing number of people seeking out mental health services alongside Connecticut’s children. However, without access to specific treatment services – some of which have stopped owing to staff shortages – people have no place to seek help. Williams called Lamont’s strategy ‘a beginning’ and suggested that he instantly fill 1,700 open state health care positions and agree to fill another 1,500 prospective vacancies due to imminent retirements.
Lamont’s budget plan comprises additional financing for loan repayment and other tuition compensation programs to address Connecticut’s health care worker deficit.
Lamont’s plans for education
Lamont stated that his strategy includes around USD 400 million in education financing, which is disseminated to an array of programs. For instance, USD 90 million will assist schools in paying for air quality enhancements, a prevalent issue during the pandemic. There is also financing for increased choice slots, summer programs, and incentives for high school seniors to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form before graduation.
The budget plans also comprise USD 65 million to assist the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system in enhancing staffing via tuition assistance. State universities’ employment has receded 16% since 2019 and 22% at community colleges, owing to the pandemic.
The governor’s budget plan establishes USD 42.25 million for single-time economic assistance payments in 2022 to individuals and households entitled to the state’s earned income tax credit. There is also USD 27.5 million in federal coronavirus relief finances to facilitate free admission to popular venues throughout the state, similar to the summer program of 2021. In addition, the Department of Transportation strives to make bus service accessible on weekends, from Memorial Day to Labour Day.
Lamont’s budget also finances for election security, inclusive of USD 150,000 for a security analyst who will monitor and battle election misrepresentation on a full-time basis. Another USD 2 million is established apart for a public information crusade on voting, including by absentee, and USD 4 million to upgrade the central voter registration system.