House expected to vote on two-year budget; Lamont truck tax

House expected to vote on two-year budget; Lamont truck tax

The House of Representatives was expected Tuesday to act on a two-year, $46 billion state budget deal that Democratic leaders in the General Assembly finalized Sunday night with Gov. Ned Lamont.

Democratic House Speaker Matt Ritter said he’s hopeful that some Republicans, the minority party in the state Legislature, will vote for the proposed budget, which proponents said does not include any new tax increases despite a strong push from progressive Democrats.

“I think you’ll see bipartisan support for the budget, which, if you had asked us a year ago or six months ago if that was possible — probably not,” he said. “It’s a great thing for the state of Connecticut.”

The planned vote comes as time is quickly running out on this year’s regular legislative session. The adjournment deadline is Wednesday at midnight. If the budget bill clears the House, as anticipated, it still needs approval in the Senate.

While Ritter acknowledged that some politically progressive members of his caucus are disappointed that new taxes on wealthy residents to help address long-standing racial and economic inequities are not included, the Hartford Democrat maintains that the budget agreement does not comprise the party’s values. Lamont has opposed proposals such as a new “consumption tax” and a capital gains tax on higher income individuals.

“We feel we’ve made some critical investments, that people will look back and say, ‘those are really good, positive things,’” he said. “I know some people were disappointed on the revenue side, but that case was made and rejected by folks who have a lot of power. And at the end of the day, I think it’s a really good budget.”

Aside from the main budget bill, lawmakers in the House on Tuesday were expected to vote on some related bills, including a proposal to extend eligibility for the state’s HUSKY health insurance program to young children and pregnant mothers without legal immigration status. Votes also need to be taken on bills that address state borrowing for capital projects and school construction.

Additionally, the House is expected to vote on a separate bill that would implement Lamont’s proposed mileage-based “highway use” fee on tractor-trailers, where the weight of the trucks determines the rate paid. Modeled after programs in New York and Oregon, the tax is projected to generate $90 million annually to help shore up the state’s financially troubled transportation fund.

The proposal, which Republicans strongly oppose, has been criticized by the state’s trucking industry, which has called it a “failed policy” that 20 other states have scrapped because it doesn’t generate the predicted revenue.

“If enacted, in-state businesses will pay it, while out-of-state businesses will not,” said Joe Sculley, president of Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, in a statement. “The legislature should learn from the history of other states and abandon this proposal now, rather than passing it and watching it fail in a few years.”

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