Haskell: 2021 State Budget

by State Senator Will Haskell

Governor Ned Lamont last week gave his annual budget address, outlining a plan for Connecticut’s revenue and spending over the next two years.

The budget is always the biggest item on the annual political agenda, and I’m sure that the final fiscal plan passed by the General Assembly later this year will look different than the governor’s proposal. That said, I’m heartened by Governor Lamont’s forward-looking outlook. As the youngest member of the General Assembly, I’m excited to spend the next few months fighting for a budget that invests in our future.

First, here are some key facts: the Governor’s proposal does not include any income or property tax hikes. It does include revenue from the proposed legalization of cannabis and sports gambling.

While those issues are sure to consume most of the headlines, the details of the budget are critically important. Over the next few weeks, we’ll debate each line item to ensure that this state’s spending is in line with the values and priorities of our community.

One of my priorities is the development of Connecticut’s workforce. That’s why I’m particularly pleased that Governor Lamont has committed to funding Connecticut’s debt-free community college program, Pledge to Advance Connecticut (PACT).

By tearing down the barrier of affordability, we encourage more students to earn a degree or acquire the required skills to pursue a career in advanced manufacturing. Reducing student loan debt helps our economy as a whole by ensuring that recent graduates aren’t delayed in the purchase of a first home, the start of a family or the launch of a small business.

The budget also includes $1.15 billion in improvements to our transportation infrastructure. How will we pay for it? The Governor has proposed collecting revenue from the tractor trailers that use our highways. Eighteen-wheel trucks take a massive physical toll on our roads, so it’s only fair to ask them to contribute to the upkeep of our infrastructure. Under this plan, it could cost a truck up to $20 to travel through the entire state. (Keep in mind, these same trucks pay over $100 just to cross the George Washington Bridge).

Building a better future for our state also means ensuring that our children and grandchildren enjoy clean air and clean water. Governor Lamont has proposed a partnership with neighboring states to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful pollutants that stem from the transportation sector.

Finally, the governor’s proposal includes $250 million in cuts to Connecticut’s bureaucracy, delivering a sleeker and more modern state government. Every week, new government functions are moved online as outdated processes are streamlined.

As we work to meet the challenges of a public health crisis and the worst recession since the Great Depression, most of my day is filled with answering questions from constituents about vaccine distribution or unemployment benefits. But as we deal with the crisis at hand, we must also pave the way for a more prosperous and healthy future. After all, we deserve a state government that can walk and chew gum at the same time. This budget is a productive start to that conversation.

State Senator Will Haskell represents Connecticut’s 26th District, which includes all of Ridgefield; Senator Haskell was first elected to the Connecticut Senate in 2018 and was re-elected in 2020. The Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee provides this column.