Lawmakers approve new casino for Connecticut, as budget comes down to the wire

Photo rendering of the proposed development for the gaming and entertainment facility in East Windsor, CT. (provided by : Stu Loeser & Co. )

NEW HAVEN, Conn.(WTNH)– There are just hours left in the state assembly’s regular session and right now it does not look like there will be votes on some of the most controversial issues. But state lawmakers did finally approve a new casino for Connecticut.

There will have to be a special legislative session. It’s a little like Christmas shopping. You could do it all on black Friday. That day is set aside just for Christmas shopping, but instead, Connecticut lawmakers like to do all their shopping at midnight on Christmas Eve.

The regular session, black Friday in this metaphor, ends at midnight Wednesday night. Tuesday there was a lot of debate, but few votes. One major decision was to put money raised for transportation into a so-called “lockbox” so that it can only be spent on transportation.

Related: House goes full throttle on tolls debate, then puts on the brakes

The bigger problem is how to raise that money, which brings us to tolls. Connecticut banned them after a fiery crash a toll plaza killed seven people in 1983. Some in Hartford are now talking about the return of tolls.

“Tolls are going to come eventually folks. We all know it. So let’s bite the bullet and do it now,” said Rep. Catherine Abercrombie, (D) Meriden.

“I think this proposal which purports to bring in all this wonderful revenue and solve the transportation problems for Connecticut is hoodwinking taxpayers,” said Rep. Gail Lavielle, (R) Wilton.

Related: Connecticut House debates but doesn’t vote on marijuana bill

You were also hoodwinked if you thought there was going to be a vote on legalizing recreational marijuana. That was debated for an hour and a half, but there was no vote, and it does not look like legalizing pot has the votes to pass right now.

And from drugs to gambling, there was a vote on expanding gambling in Connecticut. By a large margin, the state House followed the Senate and voted to approve a third casino. It would be run jointly by the tribes that run Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun and would be built in East Windsor. The idea is to compete with a casino MGM is building up the road in Springfield. Another bill to allow slot machines in offtrack betting parlors passed the House just barely and still needs Senate approval.

Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman released the following statements regarding the vote that gave final legislative passage to a bill concerning the expansion of casinos in the state:

Governor Malloy said:

I commend and thank both chambers of the General Assembly for keeping Connecticut jobs and workers at the center of this debate. Our state has a longstanding partnership and compact with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribal nations who employ thousands of Connecticut residents in their casinos. I have been very clear that I will not sign a bill that puts these jobs at risk, and I look forward to reviewing this proposal.”

Lt. Governor Wyman said”

Connecticut has strong partnerships with both the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal nations. These partnerships have helped grow our economy and bolster tourism and commerce – they’ve also cemented a deep mutual respect. We hope this will continue long into the future. I thank the Senate and House for sending this bill to the Governor’s desk.”

Rodney Butler, Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, and Kevin Brown, Chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, also released statements following the final passage of the bill.

Brown said:

There are families across the state breathing a sigh of relief tonight thanks to leaders in both chambers and from both parties. With this vote, we have all demonstrated a commitment to protecting the state of Connecticut and the good jobs of its residents.”

Butler said:

Tonight the Connecticut General Assembly passed one of the most significant jobs initiatives of the legislative session. With more than 9,000 jobs at risk, legislators banded together to save an important sector of Connecticut’s economy.”

Additionally Senate Senator Tim Larson (D-East Hartford) also hailed the bill saying:

I’m pleased that my colleagues in the House of Representatives were able to see this legislation for what it is – a bill to protect jobs, revenue and the largest driver of our state’s tourism economy,” said Sen. Larson. “I have said time and again, because it’s true, that Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino are world class businesses, and it is imperative that we do not turn our backs on two of our best industry partners in the state or the people they employ. This is a big win for Connecticut’s economy and the thousands of employees who work in tourism, the service industry and gaming in our state. I’m proud that the legislature has shown strong support for workers in our state in these final hours of our legislative session.”

There will have to be a special session to decide how to fix the projected $5 billion deficit, and it all has to be decided in the next 24 days. Christmas morning, if you will, is July 1st. That’s when the state will unwrap a new 2 year budget, and we cannot return it for a new one.

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