HARTFORD--The debate over a two-year, $40 billion budget lasted three days and nights, but the state Senate finally passed the budget. The House previously passed the budget early Wednesday morning, and now it will go to the governor to sign.
The Senate passed it less than 30 minutes before the midnight deadline, with a vote of 19-17.
The Republicans had argued that this is second highest tax increase in Gov. Dan Malloy's second term, which is where much of the opposition came from. The highest tax hike came in the governor's first term.
The budget narrowly passed in the House, 73-70, Wednesday morning, with eight state reps absent from the vote. Eleven House Democrats joined the Republicans in trying to vote the budget down.
After its passage, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey (D) called the budget terrific, even though House Republicans claimed it would raise taxes across the board by $1.5 billion.
"The reality is this is providing significant tax relief for working families in the state of Connecticut, through property tax reform, and through a transportation initiative that is the key to our economic development going forward," Sharkey said.
State Sen. Martin Looney (D-New Haven) agreed with his coworker. "We believe this is a really incredibly historic budget of benefit for the people of the state of Connecticut, for the first time it provides for substantial property tax reform," he said.
Changes to the budget, which was originally proposed by the governor, include keeping the property tax credit for households making less that $100,000 at $300, instead of lowering the credit to $200.
A cap on the car tax is also part of the budget. Property tax on a car, no matter what town it is, cannot go above 32 mills in the first year and 29.36 mills in the second year.
Other changes include the restoration of most of the funding for social services cut by Gov. Malloy in his initial proposed budget, the legalization of Keno gambling, an extension to the time package stores can sell liquor by one hour and the sales tax for car washes and cigarettes.
Even though democrats claimed the budget will erase Connecticut's projected $2.5 billion deficit after two years, the Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R) pointed out that the Office of Fiscal Analysis predicted that the state will actually be in the hole $1.5 billion.
"We're not doing anybody any favors, we're not helping constituents, we're not helping the poor, we're not helping the businesses," Fasano said. "We're helping nobody."