By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News and Steve Bigham Republican-American
NAUGATUCK — Gov. Ned Lamont made stops in Southbury, Beacon Falls and in the borough Monday pushing his legislative agenda and getting himself out among voters and he seeks a second term in this falls election.
Lamont’s big push this year is a $336 million tax cut for residents which includes a cap on motor vehicle taxes, increasing the property tax credit and expanding a student loan tax credit.
The governor talked about his plan for the tax cuts at The Station Restaurant in the afternoon following stops at Heritage Village in Southbury and a tour of Main Street in Beacon Falls where he discussed the town’s acquisition of a state community connectivity grant.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure the youth can stay right here in Connecticut and it stays affordable,” Lamont said. “A lot of that is determined by what we’re doing in day care, a lot of that is determined what we’re doing in community college, a lot of that is determined what we’re doing in health care, a lot of that has to do with taxes. Doing everything we can to make this more affordable.”
One of the proposals is to reduce the mill rate cap on motor vehicles from 45 mills to 29 mills. The tax relief would provide relief to more than 1.7 million vehicles. Officials are estimating that the state would reimburse about $160 million to cities and towns, according to state Sen. Jorge Cabrera, D-Hamden, who is on the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee.
Naugatuck native Kayla Rios said she likes the idea of relief on car taxes.
“I have lived in Naugatuck all of my life,” Rios said. “I am a wife and mother of three. My oldest son does drive. This proposed reduction, Naugatuck would see about a 35% lower mill rate so that would beneficial especially during these trying times. Beneficial to all of us.”
The proposals are before the finance committee and its members will vote to see if it goes further for additional votes at the House and Senate. The committee votes should take place in April, Cabrera said.
Other proposals include increasing the property tax credit from $200 to $300 and expanding the student loan tax credit to give employers a 50% tax credit on up to $5,250 in payments for an employee’s student loans given that students attend a college in the state and work for a Connecticut-based company.
In Beacon Falls, Lamont met with First Selectman Gerard Smith, state Department of Transportation officials and other town officials on South Main Street to discuss the town recently receiving a $600,000 grant from DOT for the Community Connectivity Grant Program to be used on Main Street.
The program aims to improve safety and accessibility for bicyclists and pedestrians near community centers as well as encourages more people to use healthy and environmentally friendly ways of travel.
Earlier Monday Lamont stopped by Sothbury’s Heritage Village, where he met with a room full of mostly unmasked seniors.
“I remember I was sitting there having dinner almost two years ago to the day, and I got the call that we had the first coronavirus infection at Danbury Hospital,” Lamont recalled. “Wuhan and Northern Italy were a long ways away, but all of a sudden Danbury really brought it home.”
And while the world faces new challenges, Lamont said those dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic are behind us.
“We were hit really hard early on, especially New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but thanks to all of you, we’ve done better than just about anywhere else in the country,” Lamont said. “We were more likely to get tested, more likely to wear a mask, more likely to get vaccinated and we were less likely to get infected.”
The governor reminded residents of all the negative talk about Connecticut a few years back.
“Everyone was down on Connecticut. Last one out, turn out the lights. We are in a physical crisis. Where did General Electric Company go? OK, I got it. We’ve got some work to do, but it’s the most amazing state in the country,” Lamont said, pointing to his budget surpluses now three years running.
Heritage Village’s Janet Doctors said Lamont’s speech was uplifting after so much “doom and gloom” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic the last few years.
Village resident Sarah Bell said cutting taxes on things like pension funds and 401ks is a big help, but she said the cost of elderly, long-term care is “bleeding them dry” and says her family is paying $70,000 a year for a part-time aid to care for an in-law.
“Medicaid takes all your money first before they help you,” she said.