The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

The good and otherwise from Lamont’s budget


It’s exactly what the state should be spending money on — helping people in dire need.

In a truly just society, there would be no such thing as “medical debt.”

What is it other than the price we pay for continuing to live? Medical care costs money, and as we have no system of universal insurance in this country, and our private insurance is often lacking, people can spend their life savings many times over just to keep themselves or their family members alive. If they can’t pay the bill, it hinders their ability to take part in many facets of life that require a good credit score, like buying a home or even getting some jobs.

No one is out on a medical spending spree. It’s not like someone walks off with a home theater system and declines to pay the bill. And yet we treat people who can’t pay those bills as pariahs. It’s a thoroughly awful system, and one that Gov. Ned Lamont is looking to make better in his recently released budget proposal.

Lamont’s plan calls for a relatively small amount of state spending, $20 million in a budget that measures in the tens of billions, that would go toward working with nonprofit organizati­ons that have experience negotiatin­g with hospitals to purchase medical debt at extreme discounts. Those charities then cancel the debt.

It should be a model for other states, and could grow to help thousands of people. It’s exactly what the state should be spending money on — helping people in dire need.


Less promising was Lamont’s plan to take on the state’s evergrowin­g housing crisis. Though it includes many incentives, it was short on mandates, which will be necessary if communitie­s are to take the actions the state clearly needs, which means building more housing. The governor’s plan is incomplete, at best.

But more troubling was the way he worded his pitch to those recalcitra­nt suburbs. “I will also urge mayors and first selectmen to develop and act on a plan of their own,” he said in his budget address. “Towns may submit their plans to facilitate housing on their terms.”

Words such as “urge” and “may” indicate that it’s up to towns whether to do this, but there’s already a law on the books, known as 8-30j, that requires every community to have a plan for affordable housing. Many towns missed deadlines to prepare those plans, but they are all supposed to have one. If the governor is only asking nicely for towns to already meet establishe­d law, we truly have a long way to go.


The biggest headline from the governor’s budget unveiling was the proposed tax cuts, which earned applause from all corners. And for good reason — the state has been running massive surpluses, indicating it is taking in more money than it needs. That calls for tax cuts.

More surprising was the continuati­on, with almost no debate, of the “fiscal guardrails” that proponents say have led to this enviable position for at least the next five years. It makes sense to stick with what works, but this is a big commitment of state dollars well into an unforeseea­ble future.

It doesn’t seem crazy to think there should have been time for public comment, at least.

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