Hartford Current: State Rep. Terrie Wood updates residents after the end of this legislative session
By Terrie Wood, State Representative, The Darien Times, June 11, 2019
With the legislative session recently concluded (June 5), I thought this would be a great time to update you on the budget and important bills that passed in the General Assembly, and how they might affect you.
The good news
The good news is that a balanced budget passed before the end of session this year. On a positive note, funding for education in Norwalk and Darien will remain essentially the same as it was in the ’18 &’19 biennium budget.
Our Excess Cost Grant (funding that covers Special Education needs) will also be reimbursed at previous levels.
School regionalization efforts are not moving forward, nor are regional property taxations.
Responsibility for teacher pensions will also not be pushed onto local municipalities and local health departments are not being mandated to regionalize.
In addition, the Medicare Savings Program (healthcare for senior citizens) is fully funded and the social security exemption, as well as the tax on pensions, continues their phase-in to incomes $75,000 and under.
There are no income tax increases and the percent of our sales tax does not increase.
Finally, we have a balance of $2 billion in our Budget Reserve Fund.
The not-so-good news
Unfortunately, I must follow the good news with the not-so-good news. The budget increases spending by 2.4% in FY ’20 and 2.5% in FY ’21. It counts on revenue increases to close our $3.7 billion deficit – a total net increase of $1.75 billion over the biennium.
A “mansion tax” will go into effect on July 1, 2020 for any home with a selling price of $2.5 million or more. This 1% conveyance tax will be required in addition to the current 1.25% conveyance tax on homes over $800,000. Luckily, if the seller remains in Connecticut for three years after the sale, the tax will be refunded through a tax credit carried over three years. However, many residents who are selling their homes are doing so to move out of Connecticut and escape taxes like these.
There will be a new tax on motor vehicle trade-ins, a new 1% tax on prepared meals (in addition to the current 6.35% sales tax), the corporate surcharge of 10% will be made permanent, and there will be an increase in the Pass-Through Entity Tax of $50 million each year. Most of Connecticut’s small/medium businesses operate as Pass-Through Entities, so this would hurt those businesses and have a very negative impact on our economy.
$172 million previously allocated to the Special Transportation Fund will be swept to the General Fund.
The Teacher Pension Retirement System obligations have been reduced in the near term – this is only “in exchange” $17 billion extra interest to re-amortize over the 17 year extension that will be paid in future years as we spread out the cost of our responsibility to our teachers.
Progressive Democrats also pushed hard to raise the minimum wage in our state to $15/hour by 2023, with an automatic escalator clause in the following years, and approve Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML). Six other states – including our neighbors of New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island – have PFML programs, but ours has the richest benefits. It mandates that every private sector worker must contribute 0.5% of each and every paycheck to fund a program they may or may not intend to use. At any point, if the fund is determined to be unsustainable, the commissioner of the Department of Labor may unilaterally raise the contribution rate to ensure solvency. Startup costs for PFML are $13 million, and it will cost even more for a quasi-public organization staffed by newly-hired state employee union members to administer it.
While developing PFML and a new minimum wage are laudable goals for workers in our state, I believe we should have approached this in a way that is fair and sustainable to people, families, and small/large businesses alike. Common sense and basic math must prevail in the work we do to balance the important needs of our employees, employers and taxpayers.
In summary, though there are good things in this budget, it still spends more than we can afford and doesn’t do enough to restructure and rebalance our state’s fragile financial footing. We need to address our unchecked spending habits by finding realistic efficiencies for currently unsustainable things like state employee union pensions and retiree healthcare costs. We have an obligation to our constituents to make these changes and put our state on a path to much-needed fiscal stability. We will have another opportunity to do this next year.
Video: Update from Terrie Wood, June 1, 2019
With 5 days to go, a Paid Family and Medical Leave vote and a budget vote still lie ahead of us. Please watch my newest video update from the Capitol to hear more. If you are not signed up to receive my eblast, you can do so on my website at www.repterriewood.com or by clicking the blue "Sign Up" button at the top of my Facebook page! I have also posted a link to the I-95 closure information in the video comments.
Video: Update from Terrie Wood, May 23, 2019
A Capitol Update from Terrie Wood, State Representative (141st District)
Published May 10, 2019
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have slightly less than four weeks left of the legislative session. I wanted to update you on the legislation that passed yesterday that many feel will further impede our efforts at fiscal recovery for our state. Here is a summary and my thoughts on it.
As always, please let me know your thoughts on this and any other pending legislation.
I voted against H.B. 5004, An Act Increasing the Fair Minimum Wage from $10.10 per hour to $15 per hour (a 48.5 percent increase) over a four year period beginning October 1, 2019 ($11/hour). The rate would then increase $1 per year until June 1, 2023, when it becomes $15. From then onward, the minimum wage would rise automatically with the employment cost index. Only individuals under 18 years of age will be eligible to receive 85 percent of the minimum wage for the first 90 days of employment.
This bill was called on the House floor at 10:00 p.m. on May 8th and was debated for just over 14 hours before going to a vote shortly after 12:00 p.m. the following day. The bill passed 85 to 59 without a single Republican vote. Two Democrats voted in opposition as well.
As a House Republican Policy Chair, I consider this one of the most anti-business proposals to come before the Connecticut General Assembly. The proponents of the bill said this legislation was about fairness.
Want to discuss fairness? How is it fair to the family-run businesses in our communities that will potentially need to reduce their staffs’ hours, lay-off valued employees, scale back services, raise their prices or even close their doors for good just because of this bill? How is it fair to the workers who will need to fight even harder for the few remaining jobs in their towns because employers have determined they cannot afford to hire? How is it fair to the college students who need to work year-round just to pay their tuition and avoid taking on tens of thousands of dollars in loans? How is it fair to disabled individuals who need these positions?
It’s not. This bill may have been well-intended, but it certainly will not feel that way to the thousands of people across Connecticut who may face unemployment as unintended consequences of this legislation. This will cripple many of our nonprofits that provide valuable services to our most vulnerable residents including the disabled, seniors, children, and low-income families.
More than half of the businesses (58.2%) in our state have less than 100 employees. Small business owners in Norwalk and Darien with whom I spoke, expressed universal and deep concern about this legislation. “We continue to see that top-down, heavy hand of government is not a productive way to grow our economy. It is essential to stabilize our state economy with predictable and practical policies that encourage businesses to come to and stay in Connecticut. This will continue to be my priority.
Everyone in the legislature wants to see wages eventually increase and our economy recover. We want people to earn more, we want them to spend more, and we want them to have a higher standard of living. That’s the American dream, and if we allow the free market to operate with minimal intervention, I believe that our economy will improve. The problem is that this legislative body cannot get out of its own way and continues to pass legislation and budgets that are damaging to our already fragile state economy. If our state slides into another recession, will our Democratic colleagues still call this bill progressive? I doubt it.
House Republicans made several attempts to amend the bill. Amendments included language to protect municipalities (LCO 8201), and non-profits, hospitals, and universities (LCO 8204). Other amendments addressed seasonal employees (LBO 8259), learners and beginners (LCO 8280), as well as farm and agricultural workers (LCO 8266). None of the Republican amendments passed and few had support from Democrats.
The bill now awaits action in the Senate.
For the latest news from our state representative, Terrie Wood (District 141), please visit www.cthousegop.com/wood/
Rep. Wood Sworn Into Sixth Term
Will Also Serve as House Republican Policy Chairman
Posted on January 11, 2019
HARTFORD — State Representative Terrie Wood (R-141) joined legislative colleagues on Wednesday, Opening Day of the 2019 Legislative Session, and was sworn in to her sixth term. She will serve for two years as State Representative for the 141st General Assembly District of Norwalk and Darien.
“It is energizing to be starting another Legislative Session in Hartford,” said Rep. Wood. “I truly enjoy this responsibility and will continue to do my best to represent your voice in Hartford. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime with questions or concerns about state government, and ideas for new legislation.”
Rep. Wood’s legislative committee assignments for this term are Human Services; Finance, Revenue & Bonding; and Higher Education & Employment Advancement Committees. In addition, she was named House Republican Policy Chairman.
The Human Services Committee holds responsibility for the Department of Social Services and the Department of Rehabilitation Services. The Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committee deals with all finance, revenue, capital, bonding, fees and taxation matters and anything relating to the Department of Revenue Services. Finally, the Higher Education & Employment Advancement Committee has cognizance over the community colleges, state university system, and the University of Connecticut – as well as workforce development programs.
In closing, Rep. Wood commented, “This will be a challenging session given our ongoing fiscal difficulties. I believe that our new Governor Ned Lamont will bring a fresh perspective and respectful approach to building bipartisan consensus on how to put our great state on a path to fiscal prosperity – prosperity that will be of benefit to all who live in our state. I look forward to getting to work!”
To follow Rep. Wood’s proposed legislation, visit her website (www.repterriewood.com) and click on the “Legislation” tab, or sign up for her email updates. To follow committee meetings and House debates as they unfold live on Connecticut’s public affairs television network, CT-N, tune your TV to Channel 59, or stream the proceedings online at www.ctn.state.ct.us.