Phuong and Khiem Tran, owners of A Dong Supermarket in West Hartford speak with Gov. Ned Lamont.

(Updated 6:10 p.m.) WEST HARTFORD, CT – Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont sought to build support for his budget proposal Tuesday, focusing on the fact that his spending plan includes deeper tax cuts than the Appropriations Committee’s proposal.

During a visit to A Dong Supermarket in West Hartford, Lamont said he wants a budget that gives broad tax relief to lower and middle-class families. 

“I hope what it says to you is we’ve earned this,” he said. 

His $50.5 billion biennial budget is about $400 million less than the proposal put forward by Democratic lawmakers. It’s also $200 million lower than the proposal House Republicans presented last week. 

Still, Lamont thinks all sides are close to a deal. 

“Now we’re having a debate about how much additional investments we make in, say, education, and how big a tax cut we’re going to have,” he said. 

He hopes he can win that debate by pointing out that budget negotiations come at a time when inflation continues to squeeze families’ wallets. Jimmy Tran, A Dong general manager and part of the family that owns the store, said a cut would help families afford more groceries. 

Jimmy Tran, general manager, gives Lamont a tour. Credit: Mike Savino photo

He also said it would give families the chance to “invest in their future.” 

“That’s enough breathing room to start stocking money away so they can buy a house,” Tran said. “That’s enough breathing room to bet on themself and start a business on the side. That’s enough breathing to send their kids to college.” 

Lamont said his budget could save families earning $75,000 or less as much as $430 a year on their taxes. That’s $125 more than the Appropriations Committee’s plan. 

For families earning up to $100,000, that number is $594 a year. And for households earning $125,000, Lamong says his budget would save $550. 

In both cases, that’s roughly $200 more than the Appropriations Committee’s proposal. 

Democrats, who control the legislature, are defending their plan as funding certain priorities while still providing a tax cut. 

“Senate Democrats remain committed to passing a budget that delivers tax relief for working and middle-class families while also supporting funding for education, non-profits, mental health services, and cities and towns,” Senate President Tempore Martin Looney said in a statement. 

Their proposal includes roughly $8 million more for local schools over two years. It would also provide $3 million to expand Medicaid for otherwise eligible undocumented immigrant children, raising the current cutoff of 12 years old to 15.

Lamont’s plan also includes an earned income tax credit and an expansion of the pass-through entity tax credit, things not in the Democrats’ plan. 

House Speaker Matt Ritter said his caucus is “open” to those ideas. “Maybe it’s meeting in the middle somewhere but we’re open to those conversations,” he said. 

House Republicans hope their $50.7-million budget can be a compromise, copying Lamont’s tax cuts but also increasing education spending beyond his spending plan.

“Tax relief for Connecticut residents has been and remains a top priority for House Republicans, and it was the centerpiece of the budget proposal we unveiled last week,” House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said. “Our plan includes and even expands upon the middle-class tax cut the Governor pitched earlier this year, and in budget negotiations we’re hopeful to get our other ideas, including a first-ever state child tax deduction, built into the final document.”

Lamont, though, said he’s happy his proposed tax cuts are “a floor for the Republicans and, I think, an awful lot of the moderate Democrats as well.” 

He did oppose the Republicans’ plan to make the cuts retroactive to Jan. 1, saying it would mean less money going into the pension fund. Lamont wants tax cuts to start next January. 

Senate Republicans plan to unveil their own budget proposal Wednesday. Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said the plan will “push back on Democrat attempts to effectively dismantle the spending caps and budgetary guardrails,” although he didn’t provide any details. 

“We can and must do more for struggling working and middle-class families who have been taking it on the chin due to inflation,” he said in a statement. “Republicans are looking out for them. The sacrifices they make must be respected.”