A Big Gulp at Lamont’s speech

February 20, 2019

HARTFORD — Lawmakers took a Big Gulp as they listened to Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget address in the ornate Hall of the House at the state Capitol Wednesday. Literally, a Big Gulp for about 15 of them.

Members of the Conservative Caucus showed up with 32-ounce Big Gulp containers from Seven-11, filled with some nasty-looking, brightly colored sugary drinks — to make a point about Lamont’s plan to tax sweetened drinks by 1.5 cents per ounce.

“We did it as a silent and mild protest to the new taxes that are in the budget,” said Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott. “It’s the exact opposite of what we should be doing.”

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He was about halfway through finishing the drink — red fruit punch. I asked whether he’d keep going. “I may, it depends,” he said. “My blood pressure is already high.”

The tax makes sense on its face, and it’s not just chump change even though the “Governor Mom and Dad” Lamont says he’s doing it for our health, not the money. It would raise $163 million in the first year.

I asked Livvy Floren, R-Greenwich, why few if any Fairfield County legislators had a Big Gulp container. “We’re more sophisticated,” she said, smiling.

That was a dig at Sen. Alex Bergstein, D-Greenwich, who was quoted in a Hartford Courant story saying Gold Coast residents accept highway tolls because they’re “sophisticated.”