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Reactions vary to Lamont's budget proposal

Lamont said the state’s fiscal health is the strongest it’s been in decades.
Credit: AP
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont presents his two-year budget proposal to the General Assembly at the Connecticut state Capitol in Hartford, Conn., on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023. (Aaron Flaum/Hartford Courant via AP)

HARTFORD, Conn. — Reactions to Gov. Ned Lamont's budget proposal released Wednesday came in from many organizations and officials within hours.

Lamont said the state’s fiscal health is the strongest it’s been in decades and that enables state officials to finally address Connecticut’s nagging reputation of being a high-cost state. Lamont and lawmakers credit fiscal reforms enacted in 2017 with helping to generate hefty surpluses. 

One of the strongest reactions was from University of Connecticut President Dr. Radenka Maric. Maric said the proposal for UConn, which receives about 25% of its yearly operating budget from the state, would leave the system with a shortfall $159.6 million next year and $197.1 million the following year compared to the budget requests made by UConn and UConn Health. She said the shortfall would not cover the total amount negotiated with employee unions on campus. 

Mason Holland, UConn Student Body President, called for students to walk out of class on Wednesday, Feb. 15 and travel to the state capitol to protest the cuts. Holland said the rising cost of an education at UConn was putting it out of the reach of many students. 

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Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-New Haven) and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) were encouraged by the budget and said the next step was to work with the Governor during the session to determine the best ways to "support Connecticut's working and middle-class families." 

While the governor proposes the state's two-year budget, the General Assembly is charged with crafting the actual legislation, and may change the governor's proposals significantly. Once passed by the house and senate, the governor signs the legislation or vetoes it. 

Representatives for End Hunger CT! and the School Meals for All CT coalition said that with federal funding for free school lunches during the pandemic going away, it was disappointing the governor chose not to find funding to provide no-cost funding for meals for students. They called on legislators to make the funding permanent. 

State Comptroller Sean Scanlon praised the budget saying it strikes a balance between investing in communities while paying down debt and bolstering the state's savings. 

AARP Connecticut said the budget was a mixed bag. They lauded plans to increase transparency for pharmaceutical manufacturers and to join an interstate consortium to purchase prescription drugs at a discounted rate will help lower medication prices for consumers. They called on the legislature to consider additional measures to hold pharmaceutical manufacturers accountable for the high cost of their prescription medications. 

The AARP said the budget did not address the benefits cliff some retirees face when they earn beyond the limits, currently $75,000 for an individual and $100,000 for a married couple, and face losing retirement income tax exemptions. They also called on programs to lower the cost of utilities to save money for consumers. 

House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora said the budget wasn't perfect, but the type of structural tax relief Lamont proposed was a good starting point for the General Assembly to craft a budget and policies that help grow "our state’s fragile economy.”

The state's HUSKY for Immigrants Coalition called on legislators to support legislation, already proposed, which would expand HUSKY access to all state residents up to age 25 regardless of immigration status.

Meghan Scanlon, President & CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence praised Lamont’s proposal which includes $13.175 million allocated from pandemic relief funds in Fiscal Year 2024 to replace lost federal funding from the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA.)  They said the funding provides services to the nearly 40,000 survivors of domestic violence each year. 

The Connecticut Conference on Municipalities was disappointed the governor did not do more to address the "regressive nature of the property tax."

Connecticut's Working Families Party said Lamont's "budget proposal takes important steps to lift up and support Connecticut’s working families but falls short in making all of the necessary investments we need to fully address racial and economic inequality."

Doug Stewart is the Senior Digital Content Producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at dstewart@fox61.com.

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