By Aaron Johnson, The Narrative Project
HARTFORD — Governor Ned Lamont laid out his financial budget plan in a pre-recorded address on Wednesday afternoon. Among other things, the plan calls on state legislators to move on legalizing recreational marijuana and internet gambling to tackle the current $1 billion deficit.
“Our neighboring states are offering recreational marijuana on a legal and regulated basis,” Lamont said. “Rather than surrender this market to out of staters or worse to the unregulated underground market, our budget provides for the legalization of recreational marijuana.”
The two-year, $46 billion budget will be without major spikes in taxes or additional slashes in spending across the state. Lamont also used the example of Connecticut’s neighboring states, like Massachusetts, while discussing the potential revenue that could be generated through online gambling and recreational marijuana sales. However, the inability to agree on a new deal with local tribal casinos has proven to be a difficult roadblock hindering online gambling opportunities. Lamont said he is confident that the two sides will be able to come to an agreement and moved forward with this plan.
“My administration has been in active negotiations with our tribal partners to bring the state’s gaming economy into the digital age,” he said. “I am submitting legislation which reflects what I believe to be the best bet in ending this stalemate of inaction in a way which is in the best interest of the entire state.”
Following the failed attempt to add automated tolls across the Nutmeg State to rectify the deficit last year, Lamont proposed a mileage fee on tractor-trailers in an attempt to solidify the special transportation fund. He also said the state will raise $80 million through joining a multi-state climate initiative with neighboring states Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
The proposed fee is expected to face major opposition from the trucker community in the state. Joseph Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut Inc., said in a story published by Hearst Connecticut Media, that he wants lawmakers to reject the proposal, in a similar fashion to the trucks-only highway tolls plan from a year ago.
Lamont focused the address on the theme of “Connecticut Comeback” with his highest priority firmly rooted in pulling the state out of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he said the state has financially begun to turn the corner even through the last several devastating months.
“Despite a global pandemic which threatens every aspect of our society and economy,” Lamont said. “We stayed the course. We weathered the storm and our state has begun to find its economic footing.”