Jars display varieties of marijuana for sale on shelves at a retail and medical cannabis dispensary in Boulder, Colorado. (Brennan Linsley, The Associated Press)

Connecticut GOP not on board for Dems’ proposal to legalize marijuana to balance budget

Bipartisan budget negotiations are scheduled to begin Wednesday

HARTFORD, Conn. — Democratic legislative leaders are proposing to legalize the retail sale of marijuana, authorize at least one new casino and “pave the way for tolls in Connecticut” as ways to balance the state’s deficit-plagued budget for the next two fiscal years.

The Republican proposal does not legalize the sale of marijuana or authorize a casino or institute tolls.

The House and Senate Democrats released a combined proposal on Tuesday that recommends legalizing the retail sale of marijuana in Connecticut, a move lawmakers predict could generate $60 million in fiscal year 2018 and $180 million in fiscal year 2019. Their plan would also allow at least one new casino at an unnamed location and “pave the way for (highway) tolls in Connecticut.”

House and Senate Democrats say their plan does not increase the sales, personal income or corporation taxes. Republican House leaders say their revised budget ensures every Connecticut community will receive an increase in local school funding. They contend their proposal doesn’t raise taxes and mitigates municipal aid losses by reallocating funds.

It comes a day after Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy released an updated budget that changed how education funding is distributed and reduced overall aid to cities and towns by $362 million more than his original budget from February.

Everyone had to make adjustments after new revenue projections showed the deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1 had grown from $1.7 billion to $2.3 billion.

The updated plan released Tuesday will be part of the bipartisan budget negotiations lawmakers are scheduled to begin Wednesday with Gov. Malloy.