Incumbent and aspiring House Republicans highlighted some familiar legislative priorities Wednesday on issues like tax policy and parental rights during a press conference intended to persuade voters to shift control of a legislature long dominated by Democrats.
The Republican representatives and legislative hopefuls crowded the north steps of the state Capitol building and offered a preview of the policies they intend to propose, in many cases again, if elected for a 2023 legislative session.
The package, which they called a “Contract with Connecticut,” included a series of tax cuts and a bill rolling back recent criminal justice and law enforcement policies passed by the state’s majority Democrats. Another proposal aimed to give parents more control of school policies by requiring impact statements any time a new rule is implemented during a health emergency.
Other proposals would aid towns looking to resist efforts by the state to require affordable housing or the regionalization of services. The Republicans also offered a bill on government accountability that would, among other things, audit federal COVID funding, update the state’s civil preparedness and public health emergency statutes, and require voters to present an ID in order to cast a ballot.
“These proposals that we’re putting forth, this Contract with Connecticut, we’re not really asking for permission from the majority party to do these things, we’re telling you that if you put us in charge, we will do these things,” Rep. David Rutigliano, R-Trumbull, said.
Republicans estimated the tax package proposed Wednesday would reduce taxes by roughly $700 million. Among other things, it would slash the income tax from 5% to 4% on households earning less than $175,000, repeal a mileage-based highway user fee set to take effect next year, and boost the property tax credit from $300 to $500.
In the short term, the proposal relies on spending some of the projected $2.3 billion state surplus. House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said fiscal safeguards included in a bipartisan budget passed in 2017 helped create the surplus the state now enjoys.
“[P]art of the equation that Republicans wanted is using those reforms to actually reduce the tax burden in the state of Connecticut, which is one of the highest nationwide and it’s frustrating and disgraceful that now that we’re in great times and residents are suffering, Democrats are unwilling to have that conversation,” Candelora said.
In a statement, House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, said much of the GOP plan was political rhetoric designed to capitalize on voter fear and anxiety. The package attacked public education, repealed criminal justice reforms, and was “intentionally dishonest” about its fiscal proposals, Rojas said.
“When CT Democrats put forth a budget bill that included over $660 million in tax cuts to help fight the effects of inflation and make our state more affordable for working- and middle-class residents, CT Republicans voted no,” Rojas said. “Enough with election-year posturing. We need real leadership for our state. Let’s hope they are up to that task during the next legislative session because I sincerely hope that we can work together towards a Connecticut that’s equitable for all, without letting the partisan divide expand.”
Candelora said the proposals reflected what members of his caucus had heard from Connecticut residents as they have knocked on doors throughout this year’s campaign season.
“Rather than doing what the Democrats have done is coming to the podium and telling us what they think the issues are, we’re here today to tell you that we are listening,” Candelora said. “Our commitment to the residents of Connecticut is we are committed to make your lives better.”
The proposals were laid out the same day a Quinnipiac University poll found that Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who will be at the top of the ticket, have a 17 point lead over their Republican opponents.