HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut lawmakers on Wednesday, the final day of the regular legislative session, approved a two-year, $46.3 billion state budget deal reached by Democratic legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont.
Here are some highlights of the plan, which will take effect on July 1:
FEDERAL FUNDS: The state budget relies on $2.28 billion over two years in a federal COVID-19 relief plan known as the American Rescue Plan. About $400 million has not yet been allocated by lawmakers.
LOCAL EDUCATION: The budget provides an additional $130 million over two years for the Education Cost Sharing grant, the state's largest grant to local schools. There is also additional funds for school systems with higher numbers of low-income students and students whose second language is English. More than $13 million in federal COVID relief funds are earmarked for reading initiatives in needy school districts and per pupil funding for charter schools is increased from $11,250 to $11,525. Per pupil funding for vocational agricultural schools is increased by $1,000 and $250,000 in federal funds are set aside for the new farm-to-school grant program that helps schools procure food from local farmers.
HIGHER EDUCATION: The budget includes $14 million in fiscal year 2022 and $15 million in fiscal year 2023 to fully fund the state's debt-free community college program, which enables qualified students to receive funds to cover the gap between federal, state and institutional aid and the full cost of attending community college. The budget also provides $20 million in fiscal year 2022 and fiscal year 2023 for the Roberta B. Willis need-based college scholarship program.
HEALTH CARE: Eligibility for the HUSKY health insurance program is expanded from 160% of the federal poverty level to 175% through the Access Health CT Exchange. Also, the program is extended to children under age 8 and pregnant women without legal immigration status. Prenatal and postnatal care is also covered. Also, the bill increases rates for local health districts and earmarks $500,000 in federal COVID funds for a loan repayment program for primary health care providers, including physicians and nurse midwives. There is also additional funding for nursing homes, ambulance companies and nonprofit agencies that provide health and human services. The copay for home health services for seniors living at home is also reduced.
TAXES: Under the budget, the state's Earned Income Tax Credit for working poor people increases from 23% of the federal income tax to 30.5%. Democrats said the change will affect nearly 195,000 households. The plan also allows Connecticut restaurants to keep seven days of their sales tax receipts. Lawmakers said there are no new tax increases in the budget bill, however the General Assembly did keep in place temporary surcharge on the corporate tax and passed a new mileage tax on tractor trailers in a separate bill.
PENSION LIABILITIES: The budget includes a $63 million bulk payment toward unfunded state pension liability and another $1 billion payment at the end of fiscal year 2021.
MUNICIPAL AID: The budget greatly expands state aid to cities and towns, including more money for the Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) or formula for untaxable property. In New Haven, for example, Mayor Justin Elicker said his city was scheduled to receive more than $41 million under the previous formula. The budget bill increases that to more than $90 million annually.
TOURISM: Under the budget, there is increased funding to help the state's humanities sector, such as theaters and museums, which was hit hard by the pandemic. There is also $15 million for a statewide tourism marketing effort.