Delayed a day by the snow, Connecticut's lawmakers returned to work to open this year's legislative session, and they began their work by hearing a budget address from Governor Dannel Malloy.
This is the second year of a two-year budget, and it doesn't include major fiscal changes. In fact, the governor already rolled out many of his proposed amendments, from increasing funding for mental health services to increasing the minimum wage.
When it comes to the $500 million surplus, Malloy proposed putting most of it in the state's rainy day fund. He wants to use $100 million of it to pay down the state's pension obligations. "We should give something back to Connecticut taxpayers," he said, "...because if the people of Connecticut are going to share in the sacrifice during tough times, they should also share in the recovery as things begin to turn around."
Malloy wants to give individuals back $55, and families $110. He admits it's not a lot of money. But it is something. And it is an election year. "It is it going to solve all the problems of any one person in the state of Connecticut?" he asked. "Of course not. But it can certainly help."
Malloy also spoke about continuing a planned sales tax exemption for clothing over $50, exempting non-prescription drugs from sales tax, and other ways to save residents money.
"All told," Malloy said, "the tax cuts in my proposed budget amount to more than $280 million over the next two years, and more than $440 million when you include the tax refund. This is modest, but it is real relief."
Modesty was a tone the governor set throughout. The money going back to taxpayers won't solve everyone's problems, he said. Getting to universal pre-kindergarten will be a "long and thoughtful process," and he wants to make college "a little more affordable." His plan to help people return to college is only for a "limited amount of time."
Speaking of limited time, that's something the legislature is working with, too. This session is its shorter session; it ends in early May.