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Ritter's First Move: Scanlon To Become Finance Co-Chair

Rep. Sean Scanlon, right, and Sen. Matthew Lesser at a press conference outlining a public health insurance option bill in 2019.
Mark Pazniokas
Rep. Sean Scanlon (right) and Sen. Matthew Lesser at a 2019 news conference outlining a public health insurance option bill.

Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, was introduced Tuesday as the new co-chair of the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee as Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, made his first personnel moves as the incoming speaker of the House of Representatives.

Scanlon will take over finance from Rep. Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, who was selected last week as the new House majority leader. Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, will return for her 11th year as co-chair of the Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Patricia Billie Miller, D-Stamford, will remain co-chair of the finance panel’s bonding subcommittee, a post that could get busier as Ritter intends to press for more borrowing while interest rates are low and the Connecticut economy is flagging.

“We need to do more while interest rates are low,” said Ritter, the unanimous choice of the House Democratic caucus to be elected speaker on Jan. 6, when the new legislature begins its two-year term. “I won’t bring a budget to the caucus unless we get a bond bill out.”

The legislature’s two money committees, appropriations and finance, face a challenging legislative session next year, despite a record-setting $3.1 billion rainy day fund. The administration of Gov. Ned Lamont is projecting a $1.2 billion deficit for the current fiscal year and similar shortfalls in the subsequent years.

If Connecticut needs revenue, House Democrats are expected to push for at least a temporary increase on its wealthiest taxpayers, while Lamont said he hopes a new federal COVID-19 stimulus bill will help the state avoid a tax increase next year.

“If we get the support from the feds, I think Connecticut can go forward and not raise taxes on anybody,” Lamont said in an interview Friday.

The selection of Scanlon puts one of Ritter’s confidants in charge of the tax-writing finance committee. He currently is co-chair of the Insurance & Real Estate Committee, where he has pushed for health care reforms.

Scanlon, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, won his fourth term last week, running unopposed in the 98th House District of Branford and Guilford. His predecessor was Patricia Widlitz, a Democrat who also served as the co-chair of finance.

Ritter is managing the shifts in jobs that come whenever there is a new speaker of the House, a consequence partially due to the domino effect that began with his own ascension from majority leader to speaker, succeeding Joe Aresimowicz, who did not seek reelection.

Unlike Congress, the General Assembly has joint committees with House and Senate co-chairs; Democrats control both chambers. Sen. John Fonfara of Hartford is the finance co-chair; Sen. Cathy Osten of Sprague is the appropriations co-chair.

Democrats won 98 of the 151 House seats last week, a net gain of seven seats. Democrats have controlled the House for 34 years.

Keith M. Phaneuf contributed to this story.

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