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Democrats Propose Marijuana Legalization, Tolls In State Budget Fix

A budget proposal by state Democrats includes the legalization of retail sales of marijuana
A budget proposal by state Democrats includes the legalization of retail sales of marijuana Photo Credit: File photo

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- Democratic state legislators released a biennial budget proposal Tuesday that includes legalizing retail sale of marijuana, opening a third casino, and adding tolls in Connection, among other proposals.

The budget proposal for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 aims to balance the state's budget without increasing sales tax, income tax or corporate tax. It was introduced by Democratic leaders in the state Senate and House of Representatives.

Under the proposal, Democrats propose joining neighbor Massachusetts in legalizing the retail sale of marijuana. Democrats say that the idea is supported by 60 percent of residents, and would bring in $200 million in revenue while generating more economic activity for the state.

Democrats also say that by authorizing at least one more casino in the state, Connecticut can create and preserve more than 6,000 casino and tourism jobs.

As part of investment in infrastructure, the proposal would pave the way for tolls in Connecticut, which Democrats say would provide for the Special Transportation Fund by making out-of-state drivers pay their share for maintenance.

“Confronting Connecticut’s budgetary challenges requires difficult decisions across the board,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “The proposal offered by Democrats in the Senate and House protects our social safety net and invests in our workforce while implementing important regionalism strategies to save taxpayers $100 million. As Democrats and Republicans return to the negotiating table, it is paramount that we pursue structural reforms so that we can stabilize our budget.”

The proposal would also make cuts to the non-fixed portion of the budget by 7.1 percent, as well as save $1.5 billion through union and nonunion state employee givebacks. It would also reverse Gov. Dannel Malloy's proposal to transfer liability for teacher retirement benefits to cities and towns.

“We must set a course for a sustainable budget and long-term economic growth,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “This proposal seeks to strike a proper balance by not raising state tax rates, continuing to make key investments in our innovation economy, and finding ways to responsibly deliver significant structural change and the most efficient delivery of state services.”

The proposal also seeks to close a prison in Connecticut.

Legislators on both sides told the Hartford Courant that the marijuana legislation measure lacks support to pass.

Democrats say that if the state's $2.3 billion budget shortfall were closed by cuts, it would require 25 percent cuts in every non-fixed budget item next year, and 30 percent in 2019. If it were closed by tax increases, it would raise the sales tax to 8.05 percent and the top income tax bracket would pay 10.3 percent.

For more on the Democratic proposal, click here.

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