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State $46 billion budget passes state House, heads to Senate

The state budget is expected to get bipartisan support across the general assembly.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Facing a deadline of Wednesday at midnight, lawmakers are still tackling major items. Tuesday night, the House of Representatives passed the state budget. They also passed a highway user fee, that would be imposed on tractor-trailers that use Connecticut roads.

The two-year, roughly $46 billion budget makes investments in workforce development, education, healthcare, and more without raising taxes. That is in part thanks to federal aid from COVID-19 relief funds.

"I think people struggle with the amount of spending versus the fact that there are no tax increases. All the federal money has really changed this process and frankly, it's made it a lot easier to craft a budget," said House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora.

"It's a good budget. It's a budget that makes healthcare more affordable, makes education more affordable, holds the line on taxes, with an emphasis on economic growth," said Gov. Ned Lamont.

The house still has another major item to get to before the end of the session, the nearly 300-page cannabis bill that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. It passed in the Senate early Tuesday morning, squeezing through with a 19 to 17 vote. State representatives are expected to vote Wednesday, and Governor Lamont has already expressed his support.

"I think it's time for them to make up their mind whether you want to have a legal, regulated market for cannabis or kick it down the road for another period. I think they're ready to vote on it," he said.

House Speaker Matt Ritter, also advocating for a vote, he said it will happen whether they run out of time this session.

"You can't block the vote; you can delay the vote by 12 hours or another day but it's inevitably going to happen. You can't clock out forever," he said.

The original bill had a line that would've benefitted an individual grower. It was taken out in an amendment made by the senate, but Candelora is calling for an investigation into how it made it in the bill in the first place.

"I think the entire process has been tainted. The fact that we had a piece of legislation that came out that was enriching one individual in the state of Connecticut, potentially giving them millions of dollars, is a real big problem," he said.

"He can do whatever he wants to call for. I know that provision came out, I know that my caucus would not have supported something like that, with the language that was said, and that was the end of it," said Ritter.

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