FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – In his biennial state budget proposed Wednesday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called for $590 million in cuts over the current budget while lowering the state sales tax and focusing on highways, trains and education.
The proposed budget is a 3.1 percent increase over the previous year, which Malloy said was in line with the state’s goal to live within its spending cap. He pointed out that it is below recent years, when spending grew by an average of 4.2 percent each year. The proposed budget would maintain current education cost sharing funding levels and municipal aid.
Malloy also announced that he would seek to lower Connecticut’s sales tax to under 6 percent for the first time since 1971.
“We can pay for this by simplifying our tax code, removing some exemptions, and by reining in loopholes and corporate tax credits,” Malloy said. “The hard-working members of our middle class have helped turn our economy around. They’ve pitched in and shared in the sacrifice. Let’s give them something back.”
But Malloy spent much of his budget address focusing on transportation, which was a big part of his State of the State address last month . His budget includes $2.8 billion in capital funding, which he said would begin efforts to improve the state's transportation. He plans to spend $10 billion over the next five years on transportation projects.
“Commuters are each spending an extra 40 hours a year in traffic due to unnecessary congestion. That’s an extra full-time week of work, every year, sitting in traffic,” Malloy said. “And for our economy, these delays cost us $4.2 billion every year. That’s a hidden tax on Connecticut citizens.”
Among the proposals are plans to fix congestion at key points on the state’s highways. Malloy plans to include additional lanes and access points on I-95 between Bridgeport and Greenwich, one of the most congested stretches of highway in the country. He also plans to begin similar work on a 5-mile stretch of I-84 in Danbury between exits 3 and 8. He includes plans to fix the Merritt Parkway interchange at Route 7 to reduce the number of motorists who get off the highways to navigate between the two roads.
For Connecticut’s railways, Malloy’s budget contains funding to build the Barnum station in Bridgeport, reconstruct the Merritt 7 station in Norwalk and begin a new station in Orange. He said the state would continue to fund the replacement of the Walk Bridge in Norwalk, as well as movable bridges in Cos Cob and Westport.
“Over time, we’ll turn the New Haven Line into a modern rail service – with reliable and frequent stops, as well as express regional service riders can count on.”
Other transportation plans include studies of additional bus routes and funding for local bridges, pedestrian walkways and bike paths. He said that Connecticut needs a transportation lockbox to ensure these projects are funded.
Other budget proposals include fully funding the Small Business Express program and doing away with the Business Entity Tax. He plans to begin work on providing full-day kindergarten across the state and refinancing student loans. He also included provisions to help non-violent offenders by reducing drug possession penalties, eliminating mandatory minimum priosn sentences, and funding opportunities that help ex-offenders find jobs and homes.
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