By Andreas Yilma New citizens and Steve Bigham Republican-American
NAUGATUCK — Governor Ned Lamont made stops in Southbury, Beacon Falls and around the borough on Monday to push his legislative agenda and get noticed among voters and he’s seeking a second term in this fall election.
Lamont’s big push this year is a $336 million tax cut for residents, which includes a cap on motor vehicle taxes, an increased property tax credit and an expansion of a student loan tax credit.
The Governor spoke about his plan for the tax cuts at The Station restaurant in the afternoon after stops at Heritage Village in Southbury and a tour of Main Street in Beacon Falls where he discussed the acquisition by the city from a state community connectivity grant.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure young people can stay here in Connecticut and keep it affordable,” Lamont said. “A lot of it depends on what we do in child care, a lot of it depends on what we do in community college, a lot of it depends on what we do in health care, a lot of that has to do with taxes. Do everything we can to make this more affordable.
One of the proposals is to reduce the mill rate ceiling on motor vehicles from 45 mills to 29 mills. The tax relief would provide relief to over 1.7 million vehicles. Officials estimate the state would reimburse cities and towns about $160 million, according to state Sen. Jorge Cabrera, D-Hamden, who serves on the Financial Revenue and Bonds Committee.
Naugatuck native Kayla Rios said she liked the idea of car tax relief.
“I’ve lived in Naugatuck all my life,” Rios said. “I am a wife and mother of three children. My eldest son drives. This proposed reduction, Naugatuck would see a lower factory rate of about 35%, which would be beneficial, especially in these difficult times. Beneficial for all of us.
The proposals are before the finance committee and its members will vote to see if it goes further for additional votes in the House and Senate. Committee votes are expected to 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 student loan payments from an employee as the students attend an in-state college and work for a Connecticut-based company.
In Beacon Falls, Lamont met with first draftsman Gerard Smith, state Department of Transportation officials and other South Main Street city officials to discuss the city’s recent receipt of a $600 grant. $000 from DOT for Community Connectivity Grant Program for use on Main Street.
The program aims to improve safety and accessibility for cyclists and pedestrians near community centers as well as to encourage more people to use healthy and environmentally friendly modes of travel.
Earlier Monday, Lamont stopped by Sothbury’s Heritage Village, where he encountered a room full of mostly unmasked elderly people.
“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,” recalls Lamont. “Wuhan and northern Italy were far away, but suddenly Danbury really brought it home.”
And as 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 in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but thanks to all of you, we did better than anywhere else in the country,” Lamont said. “We were more likely to get tested, more likely to wear a mask, more likely to be vaccinated, and we were less likely to get infected.”
The governor reminded residents of all the negative talk about Connecticut a few years ago.
“Everyone was in Connecticut. Last out, turn off the lights. We are in a physical crisis. Where did General Electric Company go? OK, I understand. We have work to do, but this is the most amazing state in the country,” Lamont said, pointing to its budget surpluses for three straight years now.
Heritage Village’s Janet Doctors said Lamont’s speech was uplifting after so much “unhappiness and sadness” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years.
Village resident Sarah Bell said lowering taxes on things like pension funds and 401ks was a big help, but she said the cost of long-term care for the elderly “bled them dry” and said his family paid $70,000 a year for part-time help to care for an in-law.
“Medicaid takes all your money before helping you,” she said.