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The Latest: Lamont offers 2 options for highway tolls

February 20, 2019
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Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont delivers his budget address at the State Capitol in Hartford, Conn., Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Latest on Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget proposal (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is offering two possible paths to instituting highway tolls.

The Democrat released a two-year state budget proposal Wednesday that suggested either truck-only tolling or a “modified congestion tolling model,” which would reduce the number of electronic tolling gantries included in a November 2018 study released by the Department of Transportation.

Under Lamont’s proposal, gantries would be limited to only Interstates 84, 91, 95 and Route 15. The number of gantries statewide would be 53, not 82 as the DOT first suggested.

While the details still need to be finalized, Lamont’s budget says Connecticut drivers with a state EZPass would receive at least a 30 percent reduced rate. Initial toll operations could begin in fiscal year 2023 and the system could be fully up and running by 2025.

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3 p.m.

Gov. Ned Lamont says he’s hoping to work with Connecticut lawmakers on two new potential sources of revenue: sports betting and recreational marijuana sales.

The Democrat did not include details about either concept in his new two-year budget, which he unveiled on Wednesday.

But Lamont listed sports betting, internet wagering and marijuana legalization among the new sources of revenue that must be enacted. During his address, Lamont said legalizing recreational marijuana like Connecticut’s neighbors “will make for a safer market that will be carefully regulated and taxed.”

Lawmakers have begun debating some of these issues, but it remains unclear if legislation will pass this session, which adjourns June 5th.

Lamont’s budget also does not refer to additional casino gambling in the state, another issue lawmakers will be debating.

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2:20 p.m.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s two-year budget is getting mixed reactions from Connecticut lawmakers.

Republicans, the General Assembly’s minority party, voiced concern Wednesday with the large number of taxes in the Democratic governor’s two-year $43.1 billion budget proposal.

The list ends tax exemptions on newspapers, winter boat storage and bicycle helmets. Lamont also wants a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, prompting Republicans to put Big Gulp cups from 7-Eleven on their desks for Lamont to see during his budget address on Wednesday.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides (THEHM’-his KLEHR’-ih-dehs) says it’s “slightly disingenuous” for Lamont to say he’s not increasing the 6.35 percent sales tax rate when he’s nixing so many exemptions.

House Majority Leader Matt Ritter is urging lawmakers who oppose the sales tax changes to “give us your ideas.”

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12:45 p.m.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont says he wants to meet with state employees to find budget savings, but he’s not threatening layoffs.

The Democrat said Wednesday some people believe Connecticut needs a “Wisconsin Moment,” where the state would “walk away from collective bargaining and tear up the contracts.” Instead, Lamont says he wants an “anti-Wisconsin moment — a Connecticut moment,” where Connecticut shows collective bargaining works for everyone.

Lamont says he plans to build on a program that provides state employees cash incentives for choosing cost-effective health services.

He’s also seeking cost of living adjustments for future retired state employees. And his plan would also restructure the state’s underfunded teacher’s retirement plan.

The former businessman is also seeking a $15 an hour minimum wage and a paid family medical leave program.

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11:15 a.m.

Gov. Ned Lamont is proposing changes to Connecticut’s tax system, including imposing the sales tax on a long list of goods and services.

The Democrat’s budget director, Melissa McCaw, said Wednesday that Lamont wants to impose a “level playing field.”

Lamont’s two-year $43.1 billion budget proposal eliminates sales tax exemptions for items from accounting services to vegetable seeds. Prior governors have tried to pare tax exemptions in the past but faced strong opposition.

The budget increases taxes on digital downloads and hotel rooms. There’s also a 10-cent surcharge on plastic bags.

McCaw says no changes to the current sales or income tax rates are proposed.

The state is facing a $1.5 billion deficit in fiscal year 2020 and $2.2 billion in fiscal year 2021. Lamont will deliver his budget address at noon.